The Skipper And The Sea-serpent
Mr. Simon Softleigh had spent most of his life between Tooting Bec and Fenchurch Street. His knowledge of the sea was therefore very limited. So, as he was taking a holiday on the south coast, he thought this was a splendid opportunity for picking up a little useful information. He therefore proceeded to "draw" the natives.
"I suppose," said Mr. Softleigh one morning to a jovial, weather-beaten skipper, "you have seen many wonderful sights on the rolling seas?"
"Bless you, sir, yes," said the skipper. "P'raps you've never seen a vanilla iceberg, or a mermaid a-hanging out her things to dry on the equatorial line, or the blue-winged shark what flies through the air in pursuit of his prey, or the sea-sarpint——"
"Have you really seen a sea-serpent? I thought it was uncertain whether they existed."
"Uncertin! You wouldn't say there was anything uncertin about a sea-sarpint if once you'd seen one. The first as I seed was when I was skipper of the Saucy Sally. We was a-coming round Cape Horn with a cargo of shrimps from the Pacific Islands when I looks over the port side and sees a tremenjus monster like a snake, with its 'ead out of the water and its eyes flashing fire, a-bearing down on our ship. So I shouts to the bo'sun to let down the boat, while I runs below and fetches my sword—the same what I used when I killed King Chokee, the cannibal chief as eat our cabin-boy—and we pulls straight into the track of that there sea-sarpint. Well, to make a long story short, when we come alongside o' the beast I just let drive at him with that sword o' mine, and before you could say 'Tom Bowling' I cut him into three pieces, all of exactually the same length, and afterwards we hauled 'em aboard the Saucy Sally. What did I do with 'em? Well, I sold 'em to a feller in Rio Janeiro. And what do you suppose he done with 'em? He used 'em to make tyres for his motor-car—takes a lot to puncture a sea-sarpint's skin."
"What was the length of the creature?" asked Simon.
"Well, each piece was equal in length to three-quarters the length of a piece added to three-quarters of a cable. There's a little puzzle for you to work out, young gentleman. How many cables long must that there sea-sarpint 'ave been?"
Now, it is not at all to the discredit of Mr. Simon Softleigh that he never succeeded in working out the correct answer to that little puzzle, for it may confidently be said that out of a thousand readers who attempt the solution not one will get it exactly right.
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