But Birdling went on asking questions.
“Where is the Rock?”
“We are just passing it,” said a Shrimp from the top of the mast. “I see it, far to leeward.”
Birdling turned his rudder, and waved his hand as his boat swung away from the Nautilus fleet.
“Goodbye,” he shouted. “Tell your King that Birdling has gone to take a peep into Shag’s palace, to see whether the young Prince be ill, or imprisoned, or dead! You shall not see me again till I bring word of your prince.”
The fairies set up a great cry of amazement, but already the Little Dipper was far to leeward, steering toward the terrible Rock. So they continued on their way to the Fairy Islands and all the way home they could talk of nothing but the adventurous captain of the many-colored sail-boat, and his crew.
Birdling sailed straight up to the Rock. It was black and high, and the waves ran up on it in great white ruffles. Then he noticed that the top of the Rock was not of stone at all—it was the outstretched form of the Sea Lion, sound asleep.
When the Shrimps saw the monster, their courage failed them. They fell upon their knees and begged the Skipper to turn back, for they were dreadfully afraid of being eaten; and when Birdling would not turn back, they mutinied and said they would not mind the sails and would not go one inch nearer the terrible Rock! Then Birdling grew angry at their cowardice and locked them all into the hold, where their cries could not be heard, for he was afraid they would wake the Sea Lion. He then took the ropes and the rudder in his own hand and steered his craft into a cove so near the Sea Lion that he could hear the great creature breathing.
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In the cove and under the rock ran a deep cave, that he guessed at once to be the entrance to Shag’s palace, where you could go down into the sea without drowning, as the Mermen and Mermaids do. Ver…