Chapter Four

There was a cold wind blowing off the North Star when they got near the world's edge, and the chilly spray of the waterfalls splashed over them. It had been stiffer going on the way back, for old Psamathos' magic was not in such a hurry just then; and they were glad to rest on the Isle of Dogs. But as Roverandom was still his enchanted size, he did not enjoy himself much there. The other dogs were too large and noisy, and too scornful; and the bones of the bone-trees were too large and bony.
It was dawn of the day after the day after tomorrow when at last they sighted the black cliffs of Mew's home; and the sun was warm on their backs, and the tips of the sand-hillocks were already pale and dry, by the time they alighted in the cove of Psamathos.
Mew gave a little cry, and tapped with his beak on a bit of wood lying on the ground. The bit of wood immediately grew straight up into the air, and turned into Psamathos' left ear, and was joined by another ear, and quickly followed by the rest of the sorcerer's ugly head and neck.
'What do you two want at this time of day?' growled Psamathos. 'It's my favourite time for sleep.'
'We're back! ' said the seagull.
'And you've allowed yourself to be carried back on his back, I see,' Psamathos said, turning to the little dog. 'After dragon-hunting I should have thought you would have found a little flight back home quite easy.'
'But please, sir,' said Roverandom, 'I left my wings behind; they didn't really belong to me. And I should rather like to be an ordinary dog again.'
'O! all right. Still I hope you have enjoyed yourself as "Roverandom". You ought to have done. Now you can he just Rover again, if you really want to be; and you can go home and play with your yellow ball, and sleep on armchairs when you get the chance, and sit on laps, and be a respectable little yap-dog again.'
'What about the little boy?' said Rover.
'But you ran away from him, silly, all the way to the moon, I thought! ' said Psamathos, pretending to be annoyed and surprised, but giving a merry twinkle out of one knowing eye. 'Home I said, and home I meant. Don't splutter and argue!'
Poor Rover was spluttering because he was trying to get in a very polite 'Mr P-samathos'. Eventually he did. 'P-P-Please, Mr P-P-P-samathos,' he said, most touchingly. 'P-Please p-pardon me, but I have met him again; and I shouldn't run away now; and really I belong to him, don't I? So I ought to go back to him.'
'Stuff and nonsense! Of course you don't and oughtn't! You belong to the old lady that bought you first, and back you'll have to go to her. You can't buy stolen goods, or bewitched ones either, as you would know, if you knew the Law, you silly little dog. Little boy Two's mother wasted sixpence on you, and that's an end of it. And what's in dream-meetings anyway?' wound up Psamathos with a huge wink.
'I thought some of the Man-in-the-Moon's dreams came true,' said little Rover sadly.
'O! did you! Well that's the Man-in-the-Moon's affair. Any business is to change you back at once into your proper size, and send you back where you belong. Artaxerxes has departed to other spheres of usefulness, so we needn't bother about him any more. Come here! '
He took hold of Rover, and he waved his fat hand over the little dog's head, and hey presto - there was no change at all! He did it all over again, and still there was no change.
Then Psamathos got right up out of the sand, and Rover saw for the first time that he had legs like a rabbit. He stamped and ramped, and kicked sand into the air, and trampled on the seashells, and snorted like an angry pug-dog; and still nothing happened at all!
'Done by a seaweed wizard, blister and wart him!' he swore. 'Done by a Persian plum-picker, pot and jam him!' he shouted, and kept on shouting till he was tired. Then he sat down.
'Well, well!' he said at last when he was cooler. 'Live and learn! But Artaxerxes is most peculiar. Who could have guessed that he would remember you amidst all the excitement of his wedding, and go and waste his strongest incantation on a dog before going on his honeymoon - as if his first spell wasn't more than any silly little puppy is worth? If it isn't enough to split one's skin.
'Well! I don't need to think out what is to be done, at any rate,' Psamathos continued. 'There is only one possible thing. You have got to go and find him and beg his pardon. But my word! I'll remember this against him, till the sea is twice as salt and half as wet. Just you two go for a walk, and be back in half an hour when my temper's better! '
Mew and Rover went along the shore and up the cliff, Mew flying slowly and Rover trotting along very sad. They stopped outside the little boys' father's house; and Rover even went in at the gate, and sat in a flower-bed under the boys' window. It was still very early, but he barked and barked hopefully. The little boys were either still fast asleep or away, for nobody came to the window. Or so Rover thought. He had forgotten that things are different on the world from the back-garden of the moon, and that Artaxerxes' bewitchment was still on his size, and the size of his bark.
After a little while Mew took him mournfully back to the cove. There an altogether new surprise was waiting for him. Psamathos was talking to a whale! A very large whale, Uin the oldest of the Right Whales. He looked like a mountain to little Rover, lying with his great head in a deep pool near the water's edge.
'Sorry I couldn't get anything smaller at a moment's notice,' said Psamathos. 'But he is very comfortable! '
'Walk in! ' said the whale.
'Good-bye! Walk in!' said the seagull.
'Walk in!' said Psamathos; 'and be quick about it! And don't bite or scratch about inside; you might give Uin a cough, and that you would find uncomfy.'
This was almost as bad as being asked to jump into the hole in the Man-in-the-Moon's cellar, and Rover backed away, so that Mew and Psamathos had to push him in. Push him they did, too, without a coax; and the whale's jaws shut to with a snap.
Inside it was very dark indeed, and fishy. There Rover sat and trembled; and as he sat (not daring even to scratch his own ears) he heard, or thought he heard, the swish and beating of the whale's tail in the waters; and he felt, or thought he felt, the whale plunge deeper and downer towards the bottom of the Deep Blue Sea.
But when the whale stopped and opened his mouth wide again (delighted to do so: whales prefer going about trawling with their jaws wide open and a good tide of food coming in, but Uin was a considerate animal) and Rover peeped out, it was deep, altogether immeasurably deep, but not at all blue. There was only a pale green light; and Rover walked out to find himself on a white path of sand winding through a dim and fantastic forest.
'Straight along! You haven't far to go," said Uin.
Rover went straight along, as straight as the path would allow, and soon before him he saw the gate of a great palace, made it seemed of pink and white stone that shone with a pale light coming through it; and through the many windows lights of green and blue shone clear. All round the walls huge sea-trees grew, taller than the domes of the palace that swelled up vast, gleaming in the dark water. The great indiarubber trunks of the trees bent and swayed like grasses, and the shadow of their endless branches was thronged with goldfish, and silverfish, and redfish, and bluefish, and phosphorescent fish like birds. But the fishes did not sing. The mermaids sang inside the palace. How they sang? And all the sea-fairies sang in chorus, and the music floated out of the windows, hundreds of mer-folk playing on horns and pipes and conches of shell.
Sea-goblins were grinning at him out of the darkness under the trees, and Rover hurried along as fast as he could - he found his steps slow and laden deep down under the water. And why didn't he drown? I don't know, but I suppose Psamathos Psamathides had given some thought to it (he knows much more about the sea than most people would think, even though he never sets toe in it, if he can help it), while Rover and Mew had gone for a walk, and he had sat and simmered down and thought of a new plan.
Anyway Rover did not drown; but he was already wishing he was somewhere else, even in the whale's wet inside, before he got to the door: such queer shapes and faces peered at him out of the purple bushes and the spongey thickets beside the path that he felt very unsafe indeed. At last he got to the enormous door - a golden archway fringed with coral, and a door of mother-of-pearl studded with sharks' teeth. The knocker was a huge ring encrusted with white barnacles, and all the barnacles' little red streamers were hanging out; but of course Rover could not reach it, nor could he have moved it anyway. So he barked, and to his surprise his bark came quite loud. The music inside stopped at the third bark, and the door opened.
Who do you think opened it? Artaxerxes himself, dressed in what looked like plum-coloured velvet, and green silk trousers; and he still had a large pipe in his mouth, only it was blowing beautiful rainbow-coloured bubbles instead of tobacco-smoke; but he had no hat.
'Hullo!' he said. 'So you've turned up! I thought you would get tired of old P-samathos' (how he snorted over that exaggerated P) 'before long. He can't do quite everything. Well, what have you come down here for? We are just having a party, and you're interrupting the music.
'Please, Mr Arterxaxes, I mean Ertaxarxes,' began Rover, rather flustered and trying to be very polite.
'O never mind about getting it right! I don't mind!' said the wizard rather crossly. 'Get on to the explanation, arid make it short; I've no time for long rigmaroles.' He had become rather full of his own importance (with strangers), since his marriage to the rich mer-king's daughter, and his appointment to the post of Pacific and Atlantic Magician (the PAM they called him for short, when he was not present). 'If you want to see me about anything pressing, you had better come in and wait in the hall; I might find a moment after the dance.'
He closed the door behind Rover and went off. The little dog found himself in a huge dark space under a dimly-lighted dome. There were pointed archways curtained with seaweed all round, and most of them were dark; but one of them was full of light, and music came loudly through it, music that seemed to go on and on for ever, never repeating and never stopping for a rest.
Rover soon got very tired of waiting, so he walked along to the shining doorway and peeped through the curtains. He was looking into a vast ballroom with seven domes and ten thousand coral pillars, lit with purest magic and filled with warm and sparkling water. There all the golden-haired mermaids and the dark-haired sirens were dancing interwoven dances as they sang - not dancing on their tails, but wonderful swim-dancing, up and down, as well as to and fro, in the clear water.
Nobody noticed the little dog's nose peeping through the seaweed at the door, so after gazing for a while he crept inside. The door was made of silver sand and pink butterfly shells, all open and happing in the gently swirling water, and he had picked his way carefully among them for some way, keeping close to the wall, before a voice said suddenly above him:
'What a sweet little dog! He's a land-dog, not a sea-dog, I'm sure. How could he have got here - such a tiny mite!'
Rover looked up and saw a beautiful mer-lady with a large black comb in her golden hair, sitting on a ledge not far above him; her regrettable tail was dangling down, and she was mending one of Artaxerxes' green socks. She was, of course, the new Mrs Artaxerxes (usually known as Princess Pam; she was rather popular, which was more than you could say for her husband). Artaxerxes was at the moment sitting beside her, and whether he had the time or not for long rigmaroles, he was listening to one of his wife's. Or had been, before Rover turned up. Mrs Artaxerxes put an end to her rigmarole, and to her sock-mending, as soon as she caught sight of him, and floating down picked him up and carried him back to her couch. This was really a window-seat on the first floor (an indoors window} - there are no stairs in sea-houses, and no umbrellas, and for the same reason; and there is not much difference between doors and windows, either.
The mer-lady soon settled her beautiful {and rather capacious) self comfortably on her couch again, and put Rover on her lap; and immediately there was an awful growl from under the window-seat.
'Lie down, Rover! Lie down, good dog!' said Mrs Artaxerxes. She was not talking to our Rover, though; she was talking to a white mer-dog who came out now, in spite of what she said, growling and grumbling and beating the water with his little web-feet, and lashing it with his large flat tail, and blowing bubbles out of his sharp nose.
'What a horrible little thing! ' the new dog said. 'Look at his miserable tail! Look at his feet! Look at his silly coat! '
'Look at yourself,' said Rover from the mer-lady's lap, 'and you won't want to do it again! Who called you Rover? - a cross between a duck and a tadpole pretending to be a dog!' From which you can see that they took rather a fancy to one another at first sight.
Indeed, they soon made great friends - not quite such friends, perhaps, as Rover and the moon-dog, if only because Rover's stay under the sea was shorter, and the deeps are not such a jolly place as the moon for little dogs, being full of dark and awful places where light has never been and never will be, because they will never be uncovered till light has all gone out. Horrible things live there, too old for imagining, too strong for spells, too vast for measurement. Artaxerxes had already found that out. The post of PAM is not the most comfortable job in the world.
'Now swim away and amuse yourselves!' said his wife, when the dog-argument had died down and the two animals were merely sniffing at one another. 'Don't worry the fire-fish, don't chew the sea-anemones, don't get caught in the clams; and come back to supper!'
'Please, I can't swim,' said Rover.
'Dear me! What a nuisance!' she said. 'Now Pam!' - she was the only one so far that called him this to his face - 'here is something you can really do, at last! '
'Certainly, my dear!' said the wizard, very anxious to oblige her, and pleased to be able to show that he really had some magic, and was not an entirely useless official (limpets they call them in sea-language). He took a little wand out of his waistcoat-pocket - it was really his fountain-pen, but it was no longer any use for writing: mer-folk use a queer sticky ink that is absolutely no use in fountain-pens - and he waved it over Rover.
Artaxerxes was, in spite of what some people have said, a very good magician in his own way {or Rover. would never have had these adventures) - rather a minor art, but still needing a deal of practice. Anyway after the very first wave Rover's tail began to get fishy and his feet to get webby, and his coat to get more and more like a mackintosh. When the change was over, he soon got used to it; and he found swimming a good deal easier to pick up than flying, very nearly as pleasant, and not so tiring - unless you wanted to go down.
The first thing he did, after a trial swim round the ballroom, was to bite at the other dog's tail. In fun, of course; but fun or not, there was nearly a fight on the spot, for the mer-dog was a bit touchy-tempered. Rover only saved himself by making off as fast as possible; nimble and quick he had to be, too. My word! there was a chase in and out of windows, and along dark passages, and round pillars, and out and up and round the domes; till at last the mer-dog himself was exhausted, and his bad temper too, and they sat down together on the top of the highest cupola next to the flag-pole. The mer-king's banner, a seaweed streamer of scarlet and green, spangled with pearls, was floating from it.
'What's your name?' said the mer-dog after a breathless pause. 'Rover?' he said. 'That's my name, so you can't have it. I had it first! '
'How do you know ?'
'Of course I know! I can see you are only a puppy, and you have not been down here hardly five minutes. I was enchanted ages and ages ago, hundreds of years. I expect I'm the first of all the dog Rovers.
'My first master was a Rover, a real one, a sea-rover who sailed his ship in the northern waters; it was a long ship with red sails, and it was carved like a dragon at the prow, and he called it the Red Worm and loved it. I loved him, though I was only a puppy, and he did not notice me much; for I wasn't big enough to go hunting, and he didn't take dogs to sail with him. One day I went sailing without being asked. He was saying farewell to his wife; the wind was blowing, and the men were thrusting the Red Worm out over the rollers into the sea. The foam was white about the dragon's neck; and I suddenly felt that I should not see him again after that day, if I didn't go too. I sneaked on board somehow, and hid behind a water-barrel; and me were far at sea and the landmarks low in the water before they found me.
'That's when they called me Rover, when they dragged me out by my tail. "Here's a fine sea-rover!" said one. "And a strange fate is on him, that turns never home," said another with queer eyes. And indeed I never did go back home; and I have never grown any bigger, though I have grown much older - and wiser, of course.
'There was a sea-fight on that voyage, and I ran up on the fore-deck while the arrows fell and sword clashed upon shield. But the men of the Black Swan boarded us, and drove my master's men all over the side. He was the last to go. He stood beside the dragon's head, and then he dived into the sea in all his mail; and I dived after him.
'He went to the bottom quicker than I did, and the mermaids caught him; but I told them to carry him swift to land, for many would weep, if he did not come home. They smiled at me, and lifted him up, and bore him away; and now some say they carried him to the shore, and some shake their heads at me. You can't depend on mermaids, except for keeping their own secrets; they're better than oysters at chat.
'I often think they really buried him in the white sand. Far away from here there lies still a part of the Red Worm that the men of the Black Swan sank; or it was there when last I passed. A forest of weed was growing round it and over it, all except the dragon's head; somehow not even barnacles were growing on that, and under it there was a mound of white sand.
'I left those parts long ago. I turned slowly into a sea-dog - the older sea-women used to do a good deal of witchcraft in those days, and one of them was kind to me. It was she that gave me as a present to the mer-king, the reigning one's grandfather, and I have been in and about the palace ever since. That's all about me. It happened hundreds of years ago, and I have seen a good deal of the high seas and the low seas since then, but I have never been back home. Now tell me about you! I suppose you don't come from the North Sea by any chance, do you? - we used to call it England's Sea in those days - or know any of the old places in and about the Orkneys?'
Our Rover had to confess that he had never heard before of anything but just 'the sea', and not much of that. 'But I have been to the moon,' he said, and he told his new friend as much about it as he could make him understand.
The mer-dog enjoyed Rover's tale immensely, and believed at least half of it. 'A jolly good yarn,' he said, 'and the best I have heard for a long time. I have seen the moon. I go on top occasionally, you know, but I never imagined it was like that. But my word! that sky-pup has got a cheek. Three Rovers! Two's bad enough, but three's impossible! And I don't believe for a moment he is older than I am; if he is a hundred yet, I should be mighty surprised.'
He was probably quite right too. The moon-dog, as you noticed, exaggerated a lot. 'And anyway,' went on the mer-dog, 'he only gave himself the name. Mine was given me.'
'And so was mine,' said our little dog.
'And for no reason at all, and before you had begun to earn it any way. I like the Man-in-the-Moon's idea. I shall call you Roverandom, too; and if I were you I should stick to it - you never do seem to know where you are going next! Let's go down to supper!'
It was a fishy supper, but Roverandom soon got used to that; it seemed to suit his webby feet. After supper he suddenly remembered why he had come all the way to the bottom of the sea; and off he went to look for Artaxerxes. He found him blowing bubbles, and turning them into real balls to please the little mer-children.
'Please, Mr Artaxerxes, could you be bothered to turn me - ' began Roverandom.
'O! go away!' said the wizard. 'Can't you see I can't be bothered? Not now, I'm busy.' This is what Artaxerxes said all too often to people he did not think were important. He knew well enough what Rover wanted; but he was not in a hurry himself.
So Roverandom swam off and went to bed, or rather roosted in a bunch of seaweed growing on a high rock in the garden. There was the old whale resting just underneath; and if anyone tells you that whales don't go down to the bottom or stop there dozing for hours, you need not let that bother you. Old Uin was in every way exceptional.
'Well?' he said. 'How have you got on? I see you are still toy-size. What's the matter with Artaxerxes? Can't he do anything, or won't he?'
'I think he can,' said Roverandom. 'Look at my new shape! But if ever I try to get onto the matter of size, he keeps on saying how busy he is, and he hasn't time for long explanations.'
'Umph! ' said the whale, and knocked a tree sideways with his tail - the swish of it nearly washed Roverandom off his rock. 'I don't think that PAM will be a success in these parts; but I shouldn't worry. You'll be all right sooner or later. In the meanwhile there are lots of new things to see tomorrow. Go to sleep! Good-bye!' And he swam off into the dark. The report that he took back to the cove made old Psamathos very angry all the same.
The lights of the palace were all turned off. No moon or star came down through that deep dark water. The green got gloomier and gloomier, until it was all black, and there was not a glimmer, except when big luminous fish went by slowly through the weeds. Yet Roverandom slept soundly that night, and the next night, and several nights after. And the next day, and the day after, he looked for the wizard and couldn't find him anywhere.
One morning when he was beginning already to feel quite a sea-dog and to wonder if he had come to stay there for ever, the mer-dog said to him: 'Bother that wizard! Or rather, don't bother him! Give him a miss today. Let's go off for a really long swim! '
On they went, and the long swim turned into an excursion lasting for days. They covered a terrific distance in the time; they were enchanted creatures, you must remember, and there were few ordinary things in the seas that could keep up with them. When they got tired of the cliffs and mountains at the bottom, and of the racing runs in the middle heights, they rose up and up and up, right through the water for a mile and a bit; and when they got to the top, no land was to be seen.
The sea all round them was smooth and calm and grey. Then it suddenly ruffled and went dark in patches under a little cold wind, the wind at dawn. Swiftly the sun looked up with a shout over the rim of the sea, red as if he had been drinking hot wine; and swiftly he leaped into the air and went off for his daily journey, turning all the edges of the waves golden and the shadows between them dark green. A ship was sailing on the margin of the sea and the sky, and it sailed right into the sun, so that its masts were black against the fire.
'Where's that going to?' asked Roverandom.
'O! Japan or Honolulu or Manila or Easter Island or Thursday or Vladivostok, or somewhere or other, I suppose,' said the mer-dog, whose geography was a bit vague, in spite of his hundreds of years of boasted prowlings. 'This is the Pacific, I believe; but I don't know which part - a warm part, by the feel of it. It's rather a large piece of water. Let's go and look for something to eat! '
When they got back, some days later, Roverandom at once went to look for the wizard again; he felt he had given him a good long rest.
'Please, Mr. Artaxerxes, could you bother - he began as usual.
'No! I could not!' said Artaxerxes, even more definitely than usual. This time he really was busy, though. The Complaints had come in by post. Of course, as you can imagine, all kinds of things go wrong in the sea, that not even the best PAM in the ocean could prevent, and some of which he is not even supposed to have anything to do with. Wrecks come down plump now and again on the roof of somebody's sea-house; explosions occur in the sea-bed (O yes! they have volcanoes and all that kind of nuisance quite as badly as we have) and blow up somebody's prize flock of goldfish, or prize bed of anemones, or one and only pearl-oyster, or famous rock and coral garden; or savage fish have a fight in the highway and knock mer-children over; or absent-minded sharks swim in at the dining-room window and spoil the dinner; or the deep, dark, unmentionable monsters of the black abysses do horrible and wicked things.
The mer-folk have always put up with all this, but not without complaining. They liked complaining. They used of course to write letters to The Weekly Weed, The Mer-mail, and Ocean Notions; but they had a PAM now, and they wrote to him as well, and blamed him for everything, even if they got their tails nipped by their own pet lobsters. They said his magic was inadequate (as it sometimes was) and that his salary ought to be reduced (which was true but rude); and that he was too big for his boots (which was also near the mark: they should have said slippers, he was too lazy to wear boots often); and they said lots besides to worry Artaxerxes every morning, and especially on Mondays. It was always worst (by several hundred envelopes) on Mondays; and this was a Monday, so Artaxerxes threw a lump of rock at Roverandom, and he slipped off like a shrimp from a net.
He was jolly glad when he got out into the garden to find that he was still unchanged in shape; and I dare say if he had not removed himself quick the wizard would have changed him into a sea-slug, or sent him to the Back of Beyond (wherever that is), or even to Pot (which is at the bottom of the deepest sea). He was very annoyed, and he went and grumbled to the sea-Rover.
'You'd better give him a rest till Monday is over, at any rate,' advised the mer-dog; 'and I should miss out Mondays altogether, in future, if I were you. Come and have another swim! '
After that Roverandom gave the wizard such a long rest that they almost forgot about one another - not quite: dogs don't forget lumps of rock very quickly. But to all appearances Roverandom had settled down to become a permanent pet of the palace. He was always off somewhere with the mer-dog, and often the mer-children came along as well. They were not as jolly as real, two-legged children in Roverandom's opinion (but then of course Roverandom did not really belong to the sea, and was not a perfect judge), but they kept him happy; and they might have kept him there for ever and have made him forget little boy Two in the end, if it had not been for things that happened later. You can make up your mind whether Psamathos had anything to do with these events, when we come to them.
There were plenty of these children to choose from, at any rate. The old mer-king had hundreds of daughters and thousands of grandchildren, and all in the same palace; and they were all fond of the two Rovers, and so was Mrs Artaxerxes. It was a pity that Roverandom never thought of telling her his story; she knew how to manage the PAM in any mood. But in that case, of course, Roverandom would have gone back sooner and missed many of the sights. It was with Mrs Artaxerxes, and some of the mer-children that he visited the Great White Caves, where all the jewels that are lost in the sea, and many that have always been in the sea, and of course pearls upon pearls, are hoarded and hidden.
They went too, another time, to visit the smaller sea-fairies in their little glass houses at the bottom of the sea. The sea-fairies seldom swim, but wander singing over the bed of the sea in smooth places, or drive in shell-carriages harnessed to the tiniest fishes; or else they ride astride little green crabs with bridles of fine threads (which of course don't prevent the crabs from going sideways, as they always will); and they have troubles with the sea-goblins that are larger, and ugly and rowdy, and do nothing except fight and hunt fish and gallop about on sea-horses. Those goblins can live out of the water for a long while, and play in the surf at the water's edge in a storm. So can some of the sea-fairies, but they prefer the calm warm nights of summer evenings on lonely shores (and naturally are very seldom seen in consequence).
Another day old Uin turned up again and gave the two dogs a ride for a change; it was like riding on a moving mountain. They were away for days and days; and they only turned back from the eastern edge of the world just in time. There the whale rose to the top and blew out a fountain of water so high that a lot of it was thrown right off the world and over the edge.
Another time he took them to the other side (or as near as he dared), and that was a still longer and more exciting journey, the most marvellous of all Roverandom's travels, as he realised later, when he was grown to be an older and a wiser dog. It would take the whole of another story, at least, to tell you of all their adventures in Uncharted Waters and of their glimpses of lands unknown to geography, before they passed the Shadowy Seas and reached the great Bay of Fairyland (as we call it) beyond the Magic Isles; and saw far off in the last West the Mountains of Elvenhome and it be light of Faery upon the waves. Roverandom thought he caught a glimpse of the city of the Elves on the green hill beneath the Mountains, a glint of white far away; but Uin dived again so suddenly that he could not be sure. If he was right, he is one of the very few creatures, on two legs or four, who can walk about our own lands and say they have glimpsed that other land, however far away.
'I should catch it, if this was found out!' said Uin. 'No one from the Outer Lands is supposed ever to come here; and few ever do now. Mum's the word! '
What did I say about dogs? They don't forget ill-tempered lumps of rock. Well then, in spite of all these varied sight-seeings and these astonishing journeys, Roverandom kept it in his underneath mind all the time. And it came back into his upper mind, as soon as ever he got back home.
His very first thought was: 'Where's that old wizard? What's the use of being polite to him! I'll spoil his trousers again, if I get half a chance.'
He was in that frame of mind when, after trying in vain to have a word alone with Artaxerxes, he saw the magician go by, down one of the royal roads leading from the palace. He was of course too proud at his age to grow a tail or fins or learn to swim properly. The only thing he did like a fish was to drink (even in the sea, so he must have been thirsty);he spent a lot of time that might have been employed on official business conjuring up cider into large barrels in his private apartments. When he wanted to get about quickly, he drove. When Roverandom saw him, he was driving in his express - a gigantic shell shaped like a cockle and drawn by seven sharks. People got out of the way quick, for the sharks could bite.
'Let's follow!' said Roverandom to the mer-dog, and follow they did; and the two bad dogs dropped pieces of rock into the carriage whenever it passed under cliffs. They could nip along amazingly fast, as I told you; and they whizzed ahead, hid in weed-bushes and pushed anything loose they could find over the edge. It annoyed the wizard intensely, but they took care that he did not spot them.
Artaxerxes was in a very bad temper before he started, and he was in a rage before he had gone far, a rage not unmixed with anxiety. For he was going to investigate the damage done by an unusual whirlpool that had suddenly appeared - and in a part of the sea that he did not like at all; he thought (and he was quite right) that there were nasty things in that direction that were best left alone. I dare say you can guess what was the matter; Artaxerxes did. The ancient Sea-serpent was waking, or half thinking about it.
He had been in a sound sleep for years, but now he was turning. When he was uncoiled he would certainly have reached a hundred miles (some people say he would reach from Edge to Edge, but that is an exaggeration); and when he is curled up there is only one cave other than Pot (where he used to live, and many people wish him back there), only one cave in all the oceans that will hold him, and that is very unfortunately not a hundred miles from the mer-king's palace.
When he undid a curl or two in his sleep, the water heaved and shook and bent people's houses and spoilt their repose for miles and miles around. But it was very stupid to send the PAM to look into it; for of course the Sea-serpent is much too enormous and strong and old and idiotic for any one to control (primordial, prehistoric, autothalassic, fabulous, mythical, and silly are other adjectives applied to him); and Artaxerxes knew it all only too well.
Not even the Man-in-the-Moon working hard for fifty years could have concocted a spell large enough or long enough or strong enough to bind him. Only once had the Man-in-the-Moon tried (when specially requested), and at least one continent fell into the sea as a result.
Poor old Artaxerxes drove straight up to the mouth of the Sea-serpent's cave. But he had no sooner got out of his carriage than he saw the tip of the Sea-serpent's tail sticking out of the entrance; larger it was than a row of gigantic water-barrels, and green and slimy. That was quite enough for him. He wanted to go home at once before the Worm turned again - as all worms will at odd and unexpected moments.
It was little Roverandom that upset everything! He did not know anything about the Sea-serpent or its tremendousness; all he thought about was baiting the ill-tempered wizard. So when a chance came - Artaxerxes was standing staring stupid-like at the visible end of the serpent, and his steeds were taking no particular notice of anything - he crept up and bit one of the sharks' tails, for fun. For fun! What fun! The shark jumped straight forward, and the carriage jumped forward too; and Artaxerxes, who had just turned too and to get into it, fell on his back. Then the shark bit the only thing it could reach at the moment, which was the shark in front; and that shark bit the next one; and so on, until the last of the seven, seeing nothing else to bite - bless me! the idiot, if he did not go and bite the Sea-serpent's tail!
The Sea-serpent gave a new and very unexpected turn! And the next thing the dogs knew was being whirled all over the place in water gone mad, bumping into giddy fishes and spinning sea-trees, scared out of their lives in a cloud of uprooted weeds, sand, shells, slugs, periwinkles, and oddments. And things got worse and worse, and the serpent kept on turning. And there was old Artaxerxes, clinging on to the reins of the sharks, being whirled all over the place too, and saying the most dreadful things to them. To the sharks, I mean. Luckily for this story, he never knew what Roverandom had done.
I don't know how the dogs got home. It was a long, long time before they did, at any rate. First of all they were washed up on the shore in one of the terrible tides caused by the Sea-serpent's stirrings; and then they were caught by fishermen on the other side of the sea and jolly nearly sent to an Aquarium (a disgusting fate); and then having escaped that by the skin of their feet they had to get all the way back themselves as best they could through perpetual subterranean commotion.
And when at last they got home there was a terrible commotion there too. All the mer-folk were crowded round the palace, all shouting at once:
'Bring out the PAM! ' (Yes! they called him that publicly, and nothing longer or more dignified.) 'BRING OUT THE PAM! BRING OUT THE PAM!'
And the PAM was hiding in the cellars. Mrs Artaxerxes found him there at last, and made him come out; and all the mer-folk shouted, when he looked out of an attic-window:
'Stop this nonsense! Stop this nonsense! STOP THIS NONSENSE! '
And they made such a hullabaloo that people at all the seasides all over the world thought the sea was roaring louder than usual. It was! And all the while the Sea-serpent kept on turning, trying absentmindedly to get the tip of his tail in his mouth. But thank heavens! he was not properly and fully awake, or he might have come out and shaken his tail in anger, and then another continent would have been drowned. (Of course whether that would have been really regrettable or not depends on which continent was taken and which you live on.)
But the mer-folk did not live on a continent, but in the sea, and right in the thick of it; and very thick it was getting. And they insisted that it was the mer-king's business to make the PAM produce some spell, remedy, or solution to keep the Sea-serpent quiet: they could, not get their hands to their faces to feed themselves or blow their noses, the water shook so; and everybody was bumping into everybody else; and all the fish were sea-sick, the water was so wobbly; and it was so turbid and so full of sand that everyone had coughs; and all the dancing was stopped.
Artaxerxes groaned, but he had to do something. go he went to his workshop and shut himself up for a fortnight, during which time there were three earthquakes, two submarine hurricanes, and several riots of the mer-people. Then he came out and let loose a most prodigious spell (accompanied with soothing incantation) at a distance from the cave; and everybody went home and sat in cellars waiting - everybody except Mrs Artaxerxes and her unfortunate husband. The wizard was obliged to stay (at a distance, but not a safe one) and watch the result; and Mrs Artaxerxes was obliged to stay and watch the wizard.
All the spell did was to give the Serpent a terrible bad dream: he dreamed that he was covered all over with barnacles (very irritating, and partly true), and also being slowly roasted in a volcano (very painful, and unfortunately quite imaginary). And that woke him!
Probably Artaxerxes' magic was better than was supposed. At any rate, the Sea-serpent did not come out - luckily for this story. He put his head where his tail was, and yawned, opened his mouth as wide as the cave, and snorted so loud that everyone in the cellars heard him in all the kingdoms of the sea.
And the Sea-serpent said: 'Stop this NONSENSE! '
And he added: 'If this blithering wizard doesn't go away at once, and if he ever so much as paddles in the sea again, I shall COME OUT; and I shall eat him first, and then I shall knock everything to dripping smithereens. That's all. Good night! '
And Mrs Artaxerxes carried the PAM home in a fainting fit.
When he had recovered - and that was quick, they saw to that - he took the spell off the Serpent, and packed his bag; and all the people said and shouted:
'Send the PAM away! A good riddance! That's all. Good-bye! '
And the mer-king said: 'We don't want to lose you, but we think you ought to go.' And Artaxerxes felt very small and unimportant altogether (which was goad for him). Even the mer-dog laughed at him.
But funnily enough, Roverandom was quite upset. After all, he had his own reasons for knowing that Artaxerxes' magic was not without effect. And he had bitten the shark's tail, too, hadn't he ? And he had started the whole thing with that trouser-bite. And he belonged to the Land himself, and felt it was a bit hard on a poor land-wizard being baited by all these sea-folk.
Anyway he came up to the old fellow and said:
'Please, Mr Artaxerxes - ! '
'Well?' said the wizard, quite kindly (he was so glad not to be called PAM, and he had not heard a 'Mister' for weeks}. 'Well? What is it, little dog? '
'I beg your pardon, I do really. Awfully sorry, I mean. I never meant to damage your reputation.'
Roverandom was thinking of the Sea-serpent and the shark's tail, but (luckily) Artaxerxes thought he was referring to his trousers.
'Come, come!' he said. 'We won't bring up bygones. Least said, soonest mended, or patched. I think we had both better go back home again together.'
'But please, Mr Artaxerxes,' said Roverandom, 'could you bother to turn me back into my proper size?'
'Certainly!' said the wizard, glad to find somebody that still believed he could do anything at all. 'Certainly! But you are best and safest as you are, while you are down here. Let's get away from this first! And I am really and truly busy just now.'
And he really and truly was. He went into the workshops and collected all his paraphernalia, insignia, symbols, memoranda, books of recipes, arcana, apparatus, and bags and bottles of miscellaneous spells. He burned all that would burn in his waterproof forge; and the rest he tipped into the back-garden. Extraordinary things took place there afterwards: all the flowers went mad, and the vegetables were monstrous, and the fishes that ate them were turned into sea-worms, sea-cats, sea-cows, sea-lions, sea-tigers, sea-devils, porpoises, dugongs, cephalopods, manatees, and calamities, or merely poisoned; and phantasms, visions, bewilderments, illusions, and hallucinations sprouted so thick that nobody had any peace in the palace at all, and they were obliged to move. In fact they began to respect the memory of that wizard after they had lost him. But that was long afterwards. At the moment they were clamouring for him to depart.
When all was ready Artaxerxes said good-bye to the mer-king - rather coldly; and not even the mer-children seemed to mind very much, he had so often been busy, and occasions of the bubbles (like the one I told you about) had been rare. Some of his countless sisters-in-law tried to be polite, especially if Mrs Artaxerxes was there; but really everybody was impatient to see him going out of the gate, so that they could send a humble message to the Sea-serpent:
'The regrettable wizard has departed and will return no more, Your Worship. Pray, go to sleep! '
Of course Mrs Artaxerxes went too. The mer-king had so many daughters that he could afford to lose one without much grief, especially the tenth eldest. He gave her a bag of jewels and a wet kiss on the doorstep and went back to his throne. But everybody else was very sorry, and especially Mrs Artaxerxes' mass of mer-nieces and mer-nephews; and they were also very sorry to lose Roverandom too.
The sorriest of all and the most downcast was the mer-dog: 'Just drop me a line whenever you go to the seaside,' he said, 'and I will pop up and have a look at you.'
'I won't forget! ' said Roverandom. And then they went.
The oldest whale was waiting. Roverandom sat on Mrs Artaxerxes' lap, and when they were all settled on the whale's back, off they started.
And all the people said: 'Good-bye!' very loud, and 'A good riddance of bad rubbish' quietly, but not too quietly; and that was the end of Artaxerxes in the office of Pacific and Atlantic Magician. Who has done their bewitchments for them since, I don't know. Old Psamathos and the Man-in-the-Moon, I should think, have managed it between them; they are perfectly capable of it.