FictionForest

Chapter 16 – The Enchanted Fishes

L. Frank BaumOct 05, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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I must now tell you what happened to Ervic and the
three other Skeezers who were left floating in the iron
boat after Queen Coo-ee-oh had been transformed into a
Diamond Swan by the magic of the Flathead Su-dic.

The four Skeezers were all young men and their leader
was Ervic. Coo-ee-oh had taken them with her in the
boat to assist her if she captured the Flathead chief,
as she hoped to do by means of her silver rope. They
knew nothing about the witchcraft that moved the
submarine and so, when left floating upon the lake,
were at a loss what to do. The submarine could not be
submerged by them or made to return to the sunken
island. There were neither oars nor sails in the boat,
which was not anchored but drifted quietly upon the
surface of the lake.

The Diamond Swan had no further thought or care for
her people. She had sailed over to the other side of
the lake and all the calls and pleadings of Ervic and
his companions were unheeded by the vain bird. As there
was nothing else for them to do, they sat quietly in
their boat and waited as patiently as they could for
someone to come to their aid.

The Flatheads had refused to help them and had gone
back to their mountain. All the Skeezers were
imprisoned in the Great Dome and could not help even
themselves. When evening came, they saw the Diamond
Swan, still keeping to the opposite shore of the lake,
walk out of the water to the sands, shake her diamond-
sprinkled feathers, and then disappear among the bushes
to seek a resting place for the night.

“I’m hungry,” said Ervic.

“I’m cold,” said another Skeezer.

“I’m tired,” said a third.

“I’m afraid,” said the last one of them.

But it did them no good to complain. Night fell and
the moon rose and cast a silvery sheen over the surface
of the water.

“Go to sleep,” said Ervic to his companions. “I’ll
stay awake and watch, for we may be rescued in some
unexpected way.

So the other three laid themselves down in the bottom
of the boat and were soon fast asleep.

Ervic watched. He rested himself by leaning over the
bow of the boat, his face near to the moonlit water,
and thought dreamily of the day’s surprising events and
wondered what would happen to the prisoners in the
Great Dome.

Suddenly a tiny goldfish popped its head above the
surface of the lake, not more than a foot from his
eyes. A silverfish then raised its head beside that of
the goldfish, and a moment later a bronzefish lifted
its head beside the others. The three fish, all in a
row, looked earnestly with their round, bright eyes
into the astonished eyes of Ervic the Skeezer.

“We are the three Adepts whom Queen Coo-ee-oh
betrayed and wickedly transformed,” said the goldfish,
its voice low and soft but distinctly heard in the
stillness of the night.

“I know of our Queen’s treacherous deed,” replied
Ervic, “and I am sorry for your misfortune. Have you
been in the lake ever since?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“I — I hope you are well — and comfortable,”
stammered Ervic, not knowing what else to say.

“We knew that some day Ooo-ee-oh would meet with the
fate she so richly deserves,” declared the bronzefish.
“We have waited and watched for this time. Now if you
will promise to help us and will be faithful and true,
you can aid us in regaining our natural forms, and save
yourself and all your people from the dangers that now
threaten you.”

“Well,” said Ervic, “you can depend on my doing the
best I can. But I’m no witch, nor magician, you must
know.”

“All we ask is that you obey our instructions,”
returned the silverfish. “We know that you are honest
and that you served Coo-ee-oh only because you were
obliged to in order to escape her anger. Do as we
command and all will be well.”

“I promise!” exclaimed the young man. “Tell me what I
am to do first.”

“You will find in the bottom of your boat the silver
cord which dropped from Coo-ee-oh’s hand when she was
transformed,” said the goldfish. “Tie one end of that
cord to the bow of your boat and drop the other end to
us in the water. Together we will pull your boat to the
shore.”

Ervic much doubted that the three small fishes could
move so heavy a boat, but he did as he was told and the
fishes all seized their end of the silver cord in their
mouths and headed toward the nearest shore, which was
the very place where the Flatheads had stood when they
conquered Queen Coo-ee-oh.

At first the boat did not move at all, although the
fishes pulled with all their strength. But presently
the strain began to tell. Very slowly the boat crept
toward the shore, gaining more speed at every moment. A
couple of yards away from the sandy beach the fishes
dropped the cord from their mouths and swam to one
side, while the iron boat, being now under way,
continued to move until its prow grated upon the sands.

Ervic leaned over the side and said to the fishes:
“What next?”

“You will find upon the sand,” said the silverfish,
“a copper kettle, which the Su-dic forgot when he went
away. Cleanse it thoroughly in the water of the lake,
for it has had poison in it. When it is cleaned, fill
it with fresh water and hold it over the side of the
boat, so that we three may swim into the kettle. We
will then instruct you further.”

“Do you wish me to catch you, then?” asked Ervic in
surprise.

“Yes,” was the reply.

So Ervic jumped out of the boat and found the copper
kettle. Carrying it a little way down the beach, he
washed it well, scrubbing away every drop of the poison
it had contained with sand from the shore

Then he went back to the boat.

Ervic’s comrades were still sound asleep and knew
nothing of the three fishes or what strange happenings
were taking place about them. Ervic dipped the kettle
in the lake, holding fast to the handle until it was
under water. The gold and silver and bronze fishes
promptly swam into the kettle. The young Skeezer then
lifted it, poured out a little of the water so it would
not spill over the edge, and said to the fishes: “What
next?”

“Carry the kettle to the shore. Take one hundred
steps to the east, along the edge of the lake, and then
you will see a path leading through the meadows, up
hill and down dale. Follow the path until you come to a
cottage which is painted a purple color with white
trimmings. When you stop at the gate of this cottage we
will tell you what to do next. Be careful, above all,
not to stumble and spill the water from the kettle, or
you would destroy us and all you have done would be in
vain.”

The goldfish issued these commands and Ervic promised
to be careful and started to obey. He left his sleeping
comrades in the boat, stepping cautiously over their
bodies, and on reaching the shore took exactly one
hundred steps to the east. Then he looked for the path
and the moonlight was so bright that he easily
discovered it, although it was hidden from view by tall
weeds until one came full upon it. This path was very
narrow and did not seem to be much used, but it was
quite distinct and Ervic had no difficulty in following
it. He walked through a broad meadow, covered with tall
grass and weeds, up a hill and down into a valley and
then up another hill and down again.

It seemed to Ervic that he had walked miles and
miles. Indeed the moon sank low and day was beginning
to dawn when finally he discovered by the roadside a
pretty little cottage, painted purple with white
trimmings. It was a lonely place — no other buildings
were anywhere about and the ground was not tilled at
all. No farmer lived here, that was certain. Who would
care to dwell in such an isolated place?

But Ervic did not bother his head long with such
questions. He went up to the gate that led to the
cottage, set the copper kettle carefully down and
bending over it asked:

“What next?”

 

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