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| Home | Reading Room THE JUNGLE BOOK

by Rudyard Kipling

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The White Seal

Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,

And black are the waters that sparkled so green.

The moon, o'er the combers, looks downward to find us

At rest in the hollows that rustle between.

Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow,

Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!

The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,

Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas!

Seal Lullaby

All these things happened several years ago at a place called

Novastoshnah, or North East Point, on the Island of St. Paul, away

and away in the Bering Sea. Limmershin, the Winter Wren, told me

the tale when he was blown on to the rigging of a steamer going to

Japan, and I took him down into my cabin and warmed and fed him

for a couple of days till he was fit to fly back to St. Paul's

again. Limmershin is a very quaint little bird, but he knows how

to tell the truth.

Nobody comes to Novastoshnah except on business, and the only

people who have regular business there are the seals. They come

in the summer months by hundreds and hundreds of thousands out of

the cold gray sea. For Novastoshnah Beach has the finest

accommodation for seals of any place in all the world.

Sea Catch knew that, and every spring would swim from whatever

place he happened to be in--would swim like a torpedo-boat

straight for Novastoshnah and spend a month fighting with his

companions for a good place on the rocks, as close to the sea as

possible. Sea Catch was fifteen years old, a huge gray fur seal

with almost a mane on his shoulders, and long, wicked dog teeth.

When he heaved himself up on his front flippers he stood more than

four feet clear of the ground, and his weight, if anyone had been

bold enough to weigh him, was nearly seven hundred pounds. He was

scarred all over with the marks of savage fights, but he was

always ready for just one fight more. He would put his head on

one side, as though he were afraid to look his enemy in the face;

then he would shoot it out like lightning, and when the big teeth

were firmly fixed on the other seal's neck, the other seal might

get away if he could, but Sea Catch would not help him.

Yet Sea Catch never chased a beaten seal, for that was against

the Rules of the Beach. He only wanted room by the sea for his

nursery. But as there were forty or fifty thousand other seals

hunting for the same thing each spring, the whistling, bellowing,

roaring, and blowing on the beach was something frightful.

From a little hill called Hutchinson's Hill, you could look

over three and a half miles of ground covered with fighting seals;

and the surf was dotted all over with the heads of seals hurrying

to land and begin their share of the fighting. They fought in the

breakers, they fought in the sand, and they fought on the

smooth-worn basalt rocks of the nurseries, for they were just as

stupid and unaccommodating as men. Their wives never came to the

island until late in May or early in June, for they did not care

to be torn to pieces; and the young two-, three-, and

four-year-old seals who had not begun housekeeping went inland

about half a mile through the ranks of the fighters and played

about on the sand dunes in droves and legions, and rubbed off

every single green thing that grew. They were called the

holluschickie--the bachelors--and there were perhaps two or

three hundred thousand of them at Novastoshnah alone.

Sea Catch had just finished his forty-fifth fight one spring

when Matkah, his soft, sleek, gentle-eyed wife, came up out of the

sea, and he caught her by the scruff of the neck and dumped her

down on his reservation, saying gruffly: "Late as usual. Where

have you been?"

It was not the fashion for Sea Catch to eat anything during

the four months he stayed on the beaches, and so his temper was

generally bad. Matkah knew better than to answer back. She

looked round and cooed: "How thoughtful of you. You've taken the

old place again."

"I should think I had," said Sea Catch. "Look at me!"

He was scratched and bleeding in twenty places; one eye was

almost out, and his sides were torn to ribbons.

"Oh, you men, you men!" Matkah said, fanning herself with her

hind flipper. "Why can't you be sensible and settle your places

quietly? You look as though you had been fighting with the Killer


"I haven't been doing anything but fight since the middle of

May. The beach is disgracefully crowded this season. I've met at

least a hundred seals from Lukannon Beach, house hunting. Why

can't people stay where they belong?"

"I've often thought we should be much happier if we hauled out

at Otter Island instead of this crowded place," said Matkah.

"Bah! Only the holluschickie go to Otter Island. If we went

there they would say we were afraid. We must preserve

appearances, my dear."

Sea Catch sunk his head proudly between his fat shoulders and

pretended to go to sleep for a few minutes, but all the time he

was keeping a sharp lookout for a fight. Now that all the seals

and their wives were on the land, you could hear their clamor

miles out to sea above the loudest gales. At the lowest counting

there were over a million seals on the beach--old seals, mother

seals, tiny babies, and holluschickie, fighting, scuffling,

bleating, crawling, and playing together--going down to the sea

and coming up from it in gangs and regiments, lying over every

foot of ground as far as the eye could reach, and skirmishing

about in brigades through the fog. It is nearly always foggy at

Novastoshnah, except when the sun comes out and makes everything

look all pearly and rainbow-colored for a little while.

Kotick, Matkah's baby, was born in the middle of that

confusion, and he was all head and shoulders, with pale, watery

blue eyes, as tiny seals must be, but there was something about

his coat that made his mother look at him very closely.

"Sea Catch," she said, at last, "our baby's going to be white!"

"Empty clam-shells and dry seaweed!" snorted Sea Catch.

"There never has been such a thing in the world as a white seal."

"I can't help that," said Matkah; "there's going to be now."

And she sang the low, crooning seal song that all the mother seals

sing to their babies:

You mustn't swim till you're six weeks old,

Or your head will be sunk by your heels;

And summer gales and Killer Whales

Are bad for baby seals.

Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,

As bad as bad can be;

But splash and grow strong,

And you can't be wrong.

Child of the Open Sea!

Of course the little fellow did not understand the words at

first. He paddled and scrambled about by his mother's side, and

learned to scuffle out of the way when his father was fighting

with another seal, and the two rolled and roared up and down the

slippery rocks. Matkah used to go to sea to get things to eat,

and the baby was fed only once in two days, but then he ate all he

could and throve upon it.

The first thing he did was to crawl inland, and there he met

tens of thousands of babies of his own age, and they played

together like puppies, went to sleep on the clean sand, and played

again. The old people in the nurseries took no notice of them,

and the holluschickie kept to their own grounds, and the babies

had a beautiful playtime.

When Matkah came back from her deep-sea fishing she would go

straight to their playground and call as a sheep calls for a lamb,

and wait until she heard Kotick bleat. Then she would take the

straightest of straight lines in his direction, striking out with

her fore flippers and knocking the youngsters head over heels

right and left. There were always a few hundred mothers hunting

for their children through the playgrounds, and the babies were

kept lively. But, as Matkah told Kotick, "So long as you don't

lie in muddy water and get mange, or rub the hard sand into a cut

or scratch, and so long as you never go swimming when there is a

heavy sea, nothing will hurt you here."

Little seals can no more swim than little children, but they

are unhappy till they learn. The first time that Kotick went down

to the sea a wave carried him out beyond his depth, and his big

head sank and his little hind flippers flew up exactly as his

mother had told him in the song, and if the next wave had not

thrown him back again he would have drowned.

After that, he learned to lie in a beach pool and let the wash

of the waves just cover him and lift him up while he paddled, but

he always kept his eye open for big waves that might hurt. He was

two weeks learning to use his flippers; and all that while he

floundered in and out of the water, and coughed and grunted and

crawled up the beach and took catnaps on the sand, and went back

again, until at last he found that he truly belonged to the water.

Then you can imagine the times that he had with his

companions, ducking under the rollers; or coming in on top of a

comber and landing with a swash and a splutter as the big wave

went whirling far up the beach; or standing up on his tail and

scratching his head as the old people did; or playing "I'm the

King of the Castle" on slippery, weedy rocks that just stuck out

of the wash. Now and then he would see a thin fin, like a big

shark's fin, drifting along close to shore, and he knew that that

was the Killer Whale, the Grampus, who eats young seals when he

can get them; and Kotick would head for the beach like an arrow,

and the fin would jig off slowly, as if it were looking for

nothing at all.

Late in October the seals began to leave St. Paul's for the

deep sea, by families and tribes, and there was no more fighting

over the nurseries, and the holluschickie played anywhere they

liked. "Next year," said Matkah to Kotick, "you will be a

holluschickie; but this year you must learn how to catch fish."

They set out together across the Pacific, and Matkah showed

Kotick how to sleep on his back with his flippers tucked down by

his side and his little nose just out of the water. No cradle is

so comfortable as the long, rocking swell of the Pacific. When

Kotick felt his skin tingle all over, Matkah told him he was

learning the "feel of the water," and that tingly, prickly

feelings meant bad weather coming, and he must swim hard and get


"In a little time," she said, "you'll know where to swim to,

but just now we'll follow Sea Pig, the Porpoise, for he is very

wise." A school of porpoises were ducking and tearing through the

water, and little Kotick followed them as fast as he could. "How

do you know where to go to?" he panted. The leader of the school

rolled his white eye and ducked under. "My tail tingles,

youngster," he said. "That means there's a gale behind me. Come

along! When you're south of the Sticky Water [he meant the

Equator] and your tail tingles, that means there's a gale in front

of you and you must head north. Come along! The water feels bad


This was one of very many things that Kotick learned, and he

was always learning. Matkah taught him to follow the cod and the

halibut along the under-sea banks and wrench the rockling out of

his hole among the weeds; how to skirt the wrecks lying a hundred

fathoms below water and dart like a rifle bullet in at one

porthole and out at another as the fishes ran; how to dance on the

top of the waves when the lightning was racing all over the sky,

and wave his flipper politely to the stumpy-tailed Albatross and

the Man-of-war Hawk as they went down the wind; how to jump three

or four feet clear of the water like a dolphin, flippers close to

the side and tail curved; to leave the flying fish alone because

they are all bony; to take the shoulder-piece out of a cod at full

speed ten fathoms deep, and never to stop and look at a boat or a

ship, but particularly a row-boat. At the end of six months what

Kotick did not know about deep-sea fishing was not worth the

knowing. And all that time he never set flipper on dry ground.

One day, however, as he was lying half asleep in the warm

water somewhere off the Island of Juan Fernandez, he felt faint

and lazy all over, just as human people do when the spring is in

their legs, and he remembered the good firm beaches of

Novastoshnah seven thousand miles away, the games his companions

played, the smell of the seaweed, the seal roar, and the fighting.

That very minute he turned north, swimming steadily, and as he

went on he met scores of his mates, all bound for the same place,

and they said: "Greeting, Kotick! This year we are all

holluschickie, and we can dance the Fire-dance in the breakers off

Lukannon and play on the new grass. But where did you get that


Kotick's fur was almost pure white now, and though he felt

very proud of it, he only said, "Swim quickly! My bones are

aching for the land." And so they all came to the beaches where

they had been born, and heard the old seals, their fathers,

fighting in the rolling mist.

That night Kotick danced the Fire-dance with the yearling

seals. The sea is full of fire on summer nights all the way down

from Novastoshnah to Lukannon, and each seal leaves a wake like

burning oil behind him and a flaming flash when he jumps, and the

waves break in great phosphorescent streaks and swirls. Then they

went inland to the holluschickie grounds and rolled up and down in

the new wild wheat and told stories of what they had done while

they had been at sea. They talked about the Pacific as boys would

talk about a wood that they had been nutting in, and if anyone had

understood them he could have gone away and made such a chart of

that ocean as never was. The three- and four-year-old

holluschickie romped down from Hutchinson's Hill crying: "Out of

the way, youngsters! The sea is deep and you don't know all

that's in it yet. Wait till you've rounded the Horn. Hi, you

yearling, where did you get that white coat?"

"I didn't get it," said Kotick. "It grew." And just as he

was going to roll the speaker over, a couple of black-haired men

with flat red faces came from behind a sand dune, and Kotick, who

had never seen a man before, coughed and lowered his head. The

holluschickie just bundled off a few yards and sat staring

stupidly. The men were no less than Kerick Booterin, the chief of

the seal-hunters on the island, and Patalamon, his son. They came

from the little village not half a mile from the sea nurseries,

and they were deciding what seals they would drive up to the

killing pens--for the seals were driven just like sheep--to be

turned into seal-skin jackets later on.

"Ho!" said Patalamon. "Look! There's a white seal!"

Kerick Booterin turned nearly white under his oil and smoke,

for he was an Aleut, and Aleuts are not clean people. Then he

began to mutter a prayer. "Don't touch him, Patalamon. There has

never been a white seal since--since I was born. Perhaps it is

old Zaharrof's ghost. He was lost last year in the big gale."

"I'm not going near him," said Patalamon. "He's unlucky. Do

you really think he is old Zaharrof come back? I owe him for some

gulls' eggs."

"Don't look at him," said Kerick. "Head off that drove of

four-year-olds. The men ought to skin two hundred to-day, but

it's the beginning of the season and they are new to the work. A

hundred will do. Quick!"

Patalamon rattled a pair of seal's shoulder bones in front of

a herd of holluschickie and they stopped dead, puffing and

blowing. Then he stepped near and the seals began to move, and

Kerick headed them inland, and they never tried to get back to

their companions. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of seals

watched them being driven, but they went on playing just the same.

Kotick was the only one who asked questions, and none of his

companions could tell him anything, except that the men always

drove seals in that way for six weeks or two months of every year.

"I am going to follow," he said, and his eyes nearly popped

out of his head as he shuffled along in the wake of the herd.

"The white seal is coming after us," cried Patalamon. "That's

the first time a seal has ever come to the killing-grounds alone."

"Hsh! Don't look behind you," said Kerick. "It is Zaharrof's

ghost! I must speak to the priest about this."

The distance to the killing-grounds was only half a mile, but

it took an hour to cover, because if the seals went too fast

Kerick knew that they would get heated and then their fur would

come off in patches when they were skinned. So they went on very

slowly, past Sea Lion's Neck, past Webster House, till they came

to the Salt House just beyond the sight of the seals on the beach.

Kotick followed, panting and wondering. He thought that he was at

the world's end, but the roar of the seal nurseries behind him

sounded as loud as the roar of a train in a tunnel. Then Kerick

sat down on the moss and pulled out a heavy pewter watch and let

the drove cool off for thirty minutes, and Kotick could hear the

fog-dew dripping off the brim of his cap. Then ten or twelve men,

each with an iron-bound club three or four feet long, came up, and

Kerick pointed out one or two of the drove that were bitten by

their companions or too hot, and the men kicked those aside with

their heavy boots made of the skin of a walrus's throat, and then

Kerick said, "Let go!" and then the men clubbed the seals on the

head as fast as they could.

Ten minutes later little Kotick did not recognize his friends

any more, for their skins were ripped off from the nose to the

hind flippers, whipped off and thrown down on the ground in a

pile. That was enough for Kotick. He turned and galloped (a seal

can gallop very swiftly for a short time) back to the sea; his

little new mustache bristling with horror. At Sea Lion's Neck,

where the great sea lions sit on the edge of the surf, he flung

himself flipper-overhead into the cool water and rocked there,

gasping miserably. "What's here?" said a sea lion gruffly, for as

a rule the sea lions keep themselves to themselves.

"Scoochnie! Ochen scoochnie!" ("I'm lonesome, very

lonesome!") said Kotick. "They're killing all the holluschickie

on all the beaches!"

The Sea Lion turned his head inshore. "Nonsense!" he said.

"Your friends are making as much noise as ever. You must have

seen old Kerick polishing off a drove. He's done that for thirty years."

"It's horrible," said Kotick, backing water as a wave went

over him, and steadying himself with a screw stroke of his

flippers that brought him all standing within three inches of a

jagged edge of rock.

"Well done for a yearling!" said the Sea Lion, who could

appreciate good swimming. "I suppose it is rather awful from your

way of looking at it, but if you seals will come here year after

year, of course the men get to know of it, and unless you can find

an island where no men ever come you will always be driven."

"Isn't there any such island?" began Kotick.

"I've followed the poltoos [the halibut] for twenty years, and

I can't say I've found it yet. But look here--you seem to have

a fondness for talking to your betters--suppose you go to Walrus

Islet and talk to Sea Vitch. He may know something. Don't

flounce off like that. It's a six-mile swim, and if I were you I

should haul out and take a nap first, little one."

Kotick thought that that was good advice, so he swam round to

his own beach, hauled out, and slept for half an hour, twitching

all over, as seals will. Then he headed straight for Walrus

Islet, a little low sheet of rocky island almost due northeast

from Novastoshnah, all ledges and rock and gulls' nests, where the

walrus herded by themselves.

He landed close to old Sea Vitch--the big, ugly, bloated,

pimpled, fat-necked, long-tusked walrus of the North Pacific, who

has no manners except when he is asleep--as he was then, with

his hind flippers half in and half out of the surf.

"Wake up!" barked Kotick, for the gulls were making a great noise.

"Hah! Ho! Hmph! What's that?" said Sea Vitch, and he struck

the next walrus a blow with his tusks and waked him up, and the

next struck the next, and so on till they were all awake and

staring in every direction but the right one.

"Hi! It's me," said Kotick, bobbing in the surf and looking

like a little white slug.

"Well! May I be--skinned!" said Sea Vitch, and they all

looked at Kotick as you can fancy a club full of drowsy old

gentlemen would look at a little boy. Kotick did not care to hear

any more about skinning just then; he had seen enough of it. So

he called out: "Isn't there any place for seals to go where men

don't ever come?"

"Go and find out," said Sea Vitch, shutting his eyes. "Run

away. We're busy here."

Kotick made his dolphin-jump in the air and shouted as loud as

he could: "Clam-eater! Clam-eater!" He knew that Sea Vitch never

caught a fish in his life but always rooted for clams and seaweed;

though he pretended to be a very terrible person. Naturally the

Chickies and the Gooverooskies and the Epatkas--the Burgomaster

Gulls and the Kittiwakes and the Puffins, who are always looking

for a chance to be rude, took up the cry, and--so Limmershin

told me--for nearly five minutes you could not have heard a gun

fired on Walrus Islet. All the population was yelling and

screaming "Clam-eater! Stareek [old man]!" while Sea Vitch rolled

from side to side grunting and coughing.

"Now will you tell?" said Kotick, all out of breath.

"Go and ask Sea Cow," said Sea Vitch. "If he is living still,

he'll be able to tell you."

"How shall I know Sea Cow when I meet him?" said Kotick,

sheering off.

"He's the only thing in the sea uglier than Sea Vitch,"

screamed a Burgomaster gull, wheeling under Sea Vitch's nose.

"Uglier, and with worse manners! Stareek!"

Kotick swam back to Novastoshnah, leaving the gulls to scream.

There he found that no one sympathized with him in his little

attempt to discover a quiet place for the seals. They told him

that men had always driven the holluschickie--it was part of the

day's work--and that if he did not like to see ugly things he

should not have gone to the killing grounds. But none of the

other seals had seen the killing, and that made the difference

between him and his friends. Besides, Kotick was a white seal.

"What you must do," said old Sea Catch, after he had heard his

son's adventures, "is to grow up and be a big seal like your

father, and have a nursery on the beach, and then they will leave

you alone. In another five years you ought to be able to fight

for yourself." Even gentle Matkah, his mother, said: "You will

never be able to stop the killing. Go and play in the sea,

Kotick." And Kotick went off and danced the Fire-dance with a

very heavy little heart.

That autumn he left the beach as soon as he could, and set off

alone because of a notion in his bullet-head. He was going to

find Sea Cow, if there was such a person in the sea, and he was

going to find a quiet island with good firm beaches for seals to

live on, where men could not get at them. So he explored and

explored by himself from the North to the South Pacific, swimming

as much as three hundred miles in a day and a night. He met with

more adventures than can be told, and narrowly escaped being

caught by the Basking Shark, and the Spotted Shark, and the

Hammerhead, and he met all the untrustworthy ruffians that loaf up

and down the seas, and the heavy polite fish, and the scarlet

spotted scallops that are moored in one place for hundreds of

years, and grow very proud of it; but he never met Sea Cow, and he

never found an island that he could fancy.

If the beach was good and hard, with a slope behind it for

seals to play on, there was always the smoke of a whaler on the

horizon, boiling down blubber, and Kotick knew what that meant.

Or else he could see that seals had once visited the island and

been killed off, and Kotick knew that where men had come once they

would come again.

He picked up with an old stumpy-tailed albatross, who told him

that Kerguelen Island was the very place for peace and quiet, and

when Kotick went down there he was all but smashed to pieces

against some wicked black cliffs in a heavy sleet-storm with

lightning and thunder. Yet as he pulled out against the gale he

could see that even there had once been a seal nursery. And it

was so in all the other islands that he visited.

Limmershin gave a long list of them, for he said that Kotick

spent five seasons exploring, with a four months' rest each year

at Novastoshnah, when the holluschickie used to make fun of him

and his imaginary islands. He went to the Gallapagos, a horrid

dry place on the Equator, where he was nearly baked to death; he

went to the Georgia Islands, the Orkneys, Emerald Island, Little

Nightingale Island, Gough's Island, Bouvet's Island, the Crossets,

and even to a little speck of an island south of the Cape of Good

Hope. But everywhere the People of the Sea told him the same

things. Seals had come to those islands once upon a time, but men

had killed them all off. Even when he swam thousands of miles out

of the Pacific and got to a place called Cape Corrientes (that was

when he was coming back from Gough's Island), he found a few

hundred mangy seals on a rock and they told him that men came

there too.

That nearly broke his heart, and he headed round the Horn back

to his own beaches; and on his way north he hauled out on an

island full of green trees, where he found an old, old seal who

was dying, and Kotick caught fish for him and told him all his

sorrows. "Now," said Kotick, "I am going back to Novastoshnah,

and if I am driven to the killing-pens with the holluschickie I

shall not care."

The old seal said, "Try once more. I am the last of the Lost

Rookery of Masafuera, and in the days when men killed us by the

hundred thousand there was a story on the beaches that some day a

white seal would come out of the North and lead the seal people to

a quiet place. I am old, and I shall never live to see that day,

but others will. Try once more."

And Kotick curled up his mustache (it was a beauty) and said,

"I am the only white seal that has ever been born on the beaches,

and I am the only seal, black or white, who ever thought of

looking for new islands."

This cheered him immensely; and when he came back to

Novastoshnah that summer, Matkah, his mother, begged him to marry

and settle down, for he was no longer a holluschick but a

full-grown sea-catch, with a curly white mane on his shoulders, as

heavy, as big, and as fierce as his father. "Give me another

season," he said. "Remember, Mother, it is always the seventh

wave that goes farthest up the beach."

Curiously enough, there was another seal who thought that she

would put off marrying till the next year, and Kotick danced the

Fire-dance with her all down Lukannon Beach the night before he

set off on his last exploration. This time he went westward,

because he had fallen on the trail of a great shoal of halibut,

and he needed at least one hundred pounds of fish a day to keep

him in good condition. He chased them till he was tired, and then

he curled himself up and went to sleep on the hollows of the

ground swell that sets in to Copper Island. He knew the coast

perfectly well, so about midnight, when he felt himself gently

bumped on a weed-bed, he said, "Hm, tide's running strong

tonight," and turning over under water opened his eyes slowly and

stretched. Then he jumped like a cat, for he saw huge things

nosing about in the shoal water and browsing on the heavy fringes

of the weeds.

"By the Great Combers of Magellan!" he said, beneath his

mustache. "Who in the Deep Sea are these people?"

They were like no walrus, sea lion, seal, bear, whale, shark,

fish, squid, or scallop that Kotick had ever seen before. They

were between twenty and thirty feet long, and they had no hind

flippers, but a shovel-like tail that looked as if it had been

whittled out of wet leather. Their heads were the most

foolish-looking things you ever saw, and they balanced on the ends

of their tails in deep water when they weren't grazing, bowing

solemnly to each other and waving their front flippers as a fat

man waves his arm.

"Ahem!" said Kotick. "Good sport, gentlemen?" The big things

answered by bowing and waving their flippers like the Frog

Footman. When they began feeding again Kotick saw that their

upper lip was split into two pieces that they could twitch apart

about a foot and bring together again with a whole bushel of

seaweed between the splits. They tucked the stuff into their

mouths and chumped solemnly.

"Messy style of feeding, that," said Kotick. They bowed

again, and Kotick began to lose his temper. "Very good," he said.

"If you do happen to have an extra joint in your front flipper you

needn't show off so. I see you bow gracefully, but I should like

to know your names." The split lips moved and twitched; and the

glassy green eyes stared, but they did not speak.

"Well!" said Kotick. "You're the only people I've ever met

uglier than Sea Vitch--and with worse manners."

Then he remembered in a flash what the Burgomaster gull had

screamed to him when he was a little yearling at Walrus Islet, and

he tumbled backward in the water, for he knew that he had found

Sea Cow at last.

The sea cows went on schlooping and grazing and chumping in

the weed, and Kotick asked them questions in every language that

he had picked up in his travels; and the Sea People talk nearly as

many languages as human beings. But the sea cows did not answer

because Sea Cow cannot talk. He has only six bones in his neck

where he ought to have seven, and they say under the sea that that

prevents him from speaking even to his companions. But, as you

know, he has an extra joint in his foreflipper, and by waving it

up and down and about he makes what answers to a sort of clumsy

telegraphic code.

By daylight Kotick's mane was standing on end and his temper

was gone where the dead crabs go. Then the Sea Cow began to

travel northward very slowly, stopping to hold absurd bowing

councils from time to time, and Kotick followed them, saying to

himself, "People who are such idiots as these are would have been

killed long ago if they hadn't found out some safe island. And

what is good enough for the Sea Cow is good enough for the Sea

Catch. All the same, I wish they'd hurry."

It was weary work for Kotick. The herd never went more than

forty or fifty miles a day, and stopped to feed at night, and kept

close to the shore all the time; while Kotick swam round them, and

over them, and under them, but he could not hurry them up one-half

mile. As they went farther north they held a bowing council every

few hours, and Kotick nearly bit off his mustache with impatience

till he saw that they were following up a warm current of water,

and then he respected them more.

One night they sank through the shiny water--sank like

stones--and for the first time since he had known them began to

swim quickly. Kotick followed, and the pace astonished him, for

he never dreamed that Sea Cow was anything of a swimmer. They

headed for a cliff by the shore--a cliff that ran down into deep

water, and plunged into a dark hole at the foot of it, twenty

fathoms under the sea. It was a long, long swim, and Kotick badly

wanted fresh air before he was out of the dark tunnel they led him


"My wig!" he said, when he rose, gasping and puffing, into

open water at the farther end. "It was a long dive, but it was

worth it."

The sea cows had separated and were browsing lazily along the

edges of the finest beaches that Kotick had ever seen. There were

long stretches of smooth-worn rock running for miles, exactly

fitted to make seal-nurseries, and there were play-grounds of hard

sand sloping inland behind them, and there were rollers for seals

to dance in, and long grass to roll in, and sand dunes to climb up

and down, and, best of all, Kotick knew by the feel of the water,

which never deceives a true sea catch, that no men had ever come


The first thing he did was to assure himself that the fishing

was good, and then he swam along the beaches and counted up the

delightful low sandy islands half hidden in the beautiful rolling

fog. Away to the northward, out to sea, ran a line of bars and

shoals and rocks that would never let a ship come within six miles

of the beach, and between the islands and the mainland was a

stretch of deep water that ran up to the perpendicular cliffs, and

somewhere below the cliffs was the mouth of the tunnel.

"It's Novastoshnah over again, but ten times better," said

Kotick. "Sea Cow must be wiser than I thought. Men can't come

down the cliffs, even if there were any men; and the shoals to

seaward would knock a ship to splinters. If any place in the sea

is safe, this is it."

He began to think of the seal he had left behind him, but

though he was in a hurry to go back to Novastoshnah, he thoroughly

explored the new country, so that he would be able to answer all


Then he dived and made sure of the mouth of the tunnel, and

raced through to the southward. No one but a sea cow or a seal

would have dreamed of there being such a place, and when he looked

back at the cliffs even Kotick could hardly believe that he had

been under them.

He was six days going home, though he was not swimming slowly;

and when he hauled out just above Sea Lion's Neck the first person

he met was the seal who had been waiting for him, and she saw by

the look in his eyes that he had found his island at last.

But the holluschickie and Sea Catch, his father, and all the

other seals laughed at him when he told them what he had

discovered, and a young seal about his own age said, "This is all

very well, Kotick, but you can't come from no one knows where and

order us off like this. Remember we've been fighting for our

nurseries, and that's a thing you never did. You preferred

prowling about in the sea."

The other seals laughed at this, and the young seal began

twisting his head from side to side. He had just married that

year, and was making a great fuss about it.

"I've no nursery to fight for," said Kotick. "I only want to

show you all a place where you will be safe. What's the use of


"Oh, if you're trying to back out, of course I've no more to

say," said the young seal with an ugly chuckle.

"Will you come with me if I win?" said Kotick. And a green

light came into his eye, for he was very angry at having to fight

at all.

"Very good," said the young seal carelessly. "If you win, I'll come."

He had no time to change his mind, for Kotick's head was out

and his teeth sunk in the blubber of the young seal's neck. Then

he threw himself back on his haunches and hauled his enemy down

the beach, shook him, and knocked him over. Then Kotick roared to

the seals: "I've done my best for you these five seasons past.

I've found you the island where you'll be safe, but unless your

heads are dragged off your silly necks you won't believe. I'm

going to teach you now. Look out for yourselves!"

Limmershin told me that never in his life--and Limmershin

sees ten thousand big seals fighting every year--never in all

his little life did he see anything like Kotick's charge into the

nurseries. He flung himself at the biggest sea catch he could

find, caught him by the throat, choked him and bumped him and

banged him till he grunted for mercy, and then threw him aside and

attacked the next. You see, Kotick had never fasted for four

months as the big seals did every year, and his deep-sea swimming

trips kept him in perfect condition, and, best of all, he had

never fought before. His curly white mane stood up with rage, and

his eyes flamed, and his big dog teeth glistened, and he was

splendid to look at. Old Sea Catch, his father, saw him tearing

past, hauling the grizzled old seals about as though they had been

halibut, and upsetting the young bachelors in all directions; and

Sea Catch gave a roar and shouted: "He may be a fool, but he is

the best fighter on the beaches! Don't tackle your father, my

son! He's with you!"

Kotick roared in answer, and old Sea Catch waddled in with his

mustache on end, blowing like a locomotive, while Matkah and the

seal that was going to marry Kotick cowered down and admired their

men-folk. It was a gorgeous fight, for the two fought as long as

there was a seal that dared lift up his head, and when there were

none they paraded grandly up and down the beach side by side,


At night, just as the Northern Lights were winking and

flashing through the fog, Kotick climbed a bare rock and looked

down on the scattered nurseries and the torn and bleeding seals.

"Now," he said, "I've taught you your lesson."

"My wig!" said old Sea Catch, boosting himself up stiffly, for

he was fearfully mauled. "The Killer Whale himself could not have

cut them up worse. Son, I'm proud of you, and what's more, I'll

come with you to your island--if there is such a place."

"Hear you, fat pigs of the sea. Who comes with me to the Sea

Cow's tunnel? Answer, or I shall teach you again," roared Kotick.

There was a murmur like the ripple of the tide all up and down

the beaches. "We will come," said thousands of tired voices. "We

will follow Kotick, the White Seal."

Then Kotick dropped his head between his shoulders and shut

his eyes proudly. He was not a white seal any more, but red from

head to tail. All the same he would have scorned to look at or

touch one of his wounds.

A week later he and his army (nearly ten thousand

holluschickie and old seals) went away north to the Sea Cow's

tunnel, Kotick leading them, and the seals that stayed at

Novastoshnah called them idiots. But next spring, when they all

met off the fishing banks of the Pacific, Kotick's seals told such

tales of the new beaches beyond Sea Cow's tunnel that more and

more seals left Novastoshnah. Of course it was not all done at

once, for the seals are not very clever, and they need a long time

to turn things over in their minds, but year after year more seals

went away from Novastoshnah, and Lukannon, and the other

nurseries, to the quiet, sheltered beaches where Kotick sits all

the summer through, getting bigger and fatter and stronger each

year, while the holluschickie play around him, in that sea where

no man comes.



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