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
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
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
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 through.
''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 there.
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
''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 questions.
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
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 fighting?''
''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, bellowing.
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