The Wizard of the Sea/Chapter 19

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CHAPTER XIX.

MONT'S PERIL.


"Where am I? Where are you, Carl?"

After about an hour's sleep Mont was aroused by an acute sensation of pain in his right leg.

Stretching out his hand, he encountered a slimy substance, and withdrew it very quickly.

Leaning on his elbow, he saw by the light of his lamp that a strange fish, with a head like a frying-pan and a body resembling that of a codfish, was biting through his waterproof covering and trying to eat part of his leg.

In an instant he seized his gun, and, firing at its eye, wounded it grievously, causing it to splash about and retreat into a mass of weeds, where its struggles continued for some time.

For a moment Mont forgot where he was.

But as his senses came back to him, he recollected everything, and, rising, looked about for his companions.

As he could see nothing of them, a horrible fear took possession of him, and he trembled from head to foot.

They had lost him in the depths of the ocean.

Without an experienced guide like Captain Vindex, it was impossible for him to find his way back.

The dangerous and perhaps fatal sleep which had overcome him must be fought against.

For if it came on again he knew he must die.

How much precious air had he not consumed already?

To him, in his condition, air was life.

He knew that he had only a supply for a limited period.

The only course that remained open to him was to march as quickly as the dense mass of water would let him, and try to regain the Searcher.

But though he turned round, he could not find the sandy plain they had first traversed on leaving the ship.

The forest of sea weeds, rising straight as arrows on all sides of him, erect and motionless, grew dense; animal life was everywhere.

Strange fishes glared at him, and seemed to mock his misery by their quick, darting movements and sportive gambols.

He pushed his way fiercely through the vegetable growth, but only to become more entangled.

All at once the ground became hilly, and it seemed as if he had come to the end of the valley and was ascending one of the sides.

He pushed on, thinking he would give the world to be able to rise to the surface.

If he could only penetrate that thick water and float on the top of the waves, breathing the free air of heaven, he would have gladly done so, even if he were to die an hour afterward.

Gradually he quitted the forest, and the sun's rays began to be visible again.

Decidedly he must be getting higher.

Presently a great black mass appeared at his side.

He could see that it was a ferocious shark, whose huge mouth seemed capable of engulfing him.

Instinctively he threw himself on his back.

The voracious creature had made a dart at him, but shot past, disappointed of its prey.

If it had seized his arm or his leg, or even his head, one snap of its mouth would have been sufficient to cut off either.

As the animal swam around him Mont pointed his gun and fired.

The shot entered its stomach, but was not mortal.

Another and another followed, and at last the vast mass floated slowly upward, showing that it was dead.

Thanking Providence for this narrow escape, and congratulating himself on his presence of mind, our hero continued the ascent.

The path became steep and rugged, and it was with difficulty that he made his way.

He was evidently ascending the side of a rock, which became more precipitous as he went on.

Where did it lead?

Was it raised above the surface or did it fall short of it?

If so, he would have his trouble for nothing.

He breathed with an effort, and his breath grew shorter and shorter every moment, for he was making a great demand upon his reservoir of air while undergoing strong exertion.

At length he had to stop.

It seemed as if his strength were failing him.

The sleepy feeling overtook him again, and he leaned back against the shining rock, which reflected the sun's rays.

He was face to face with death.

Not much longer would his lungs be supplied with breathing air.

Suffocation threatened Mont with a painful end, yet he was so weak and prostrate that he seemed unable to make another effort.

Every moment was of priceless value.

At last he went on.

How he did it he never knew; but he managed to climb the almost perpendicular rocks, which afforded little or no footing.

At last the sun's rays were more vivid, and, with a feeling of wonder, Mont found himself moving with comparative ease.

This was because he had reached the summit of the rock after climbing nearly two hundred and fifty yards.

He was out of the water.

With nervous hands he tore off his helmet, and, lying on his side, inhaled the air for a few minutes.

"I am saved, saved!" cried Mont delightedly.

He rose at length, and looked around him.

The rock on which he was standing was a narrow, barren peak, which just rose above the surface, and that was all.

The remainder of the ledge was under water. If he had not ascended in that place he must have died.

Afar off was what appeared to be a small island. But whether it was an arid desert or not he was unable to tell.

"Perhaps I shall die of hunger and thirst," he muttered; "but death is better here than in the forest under the sea."

Sleep again overcame him, and he passed several hours in a deep slumber.

With wakefulness came a horrible sensation of hunger and thirst.

While he was gazing around him, with despair again attacking him, he saw something rise in the sea a short distance off.

He thought he recognized the black back of the Searcher, and he was not mistaken.

The trapdoor opened, and two men appeared on the platform.

They were Captain Vindex and Professor Woddle.

Mont tried to cry out, but only a feeble sound came from his lips.

He, however, waved his hands, and the signal was seen.

Soon the electric boat floated gently to the rock.

He stepped on the platform, which was by this time crowded with the crew, Carl, and Stump.

The next moment he was in the arms of kind friends.

He sank fainting at their feet, and was carried below, where he remained some days before he entirely recovered his strength.

Captain Vindex had entertained an idea that Mont might reach the surface by climbing up the rocks, although he scarcely dared to hold this opinion as a certainty.

But when nothing could be seen of him below the surface, he resolved to look for him above.

Consequently the Searcher rose under his orders, with the happy result we have described.