"Keep away! Get out, there!" yelled Cap'n Bill. "You're a ghost, the ghost o' me that once was, an' I can't bear the sight o' you. Git out!"
"Did you ring jes' to tell me to git out?" asked the other in a mild voice.
"I--I didn't ring," declared Cap'n Bill.
"You did. You pulled that bell cord," said the one-legged (one or more lines missing here in this edition)
"Oh, did pullin' that thing ring a bell?" inquired the Cap'n, a little ashamed of his ignorance and reassured by hearing the "ghost" talk.
"It surely did," was the reply, "and Sacho told me to answer your bell and look after you. So I'm a-lookin' after you."
"I wish you wouldn't," protested Cap'n Bill. "I've no use fer--fer ghostses, anyhow."
The strange sailor began to chuckle at hearing this, and his chuckle was just like Cap'n Bill's chuckle, so full of merry humor that it usually made everyone laugh with him.
"Who are you?" asked Trot, who was very curious and much surprised.
"I'm Cap'n Joe," was the reply. "Cap'n Joe Weedles, formerly o' the brig 'Gladsome' an' now a slave o' Zog at the bottom o' the sea."
"J--J--Joe Wee-Weedles!" gasped Cap'n Bill, amazed. "Joe Weedles o' the 'Gladsome'! Why, dash my eyes, mate, you must be my brother!"
"Are YOU Bill Weedles?" asked the other. And then he added, "But no, you can't be. Bill wasn't no mermaid. He were a human critter like myself."
"That's what I am," said Cap'n Bill hastily. "I'm a human critter, too. I've jes' borrered this fish tail to swim with while I'm visitin' the mermaids."
"Well, well," said Cap'n Joe in astonishment. "Who'd o' thought it! An' who'd ever o' thought as I'd find my long-lost brother in Zog's enchanted castle full fifty fathoms deep down in the wet, wet water!"
"Why, as fer that," replied Cap'n Bill, "it's YOU as is the long-lost brother, not me. You an' your ship disappeared many a year ago, an' ain't never been heard of since, while, as you see, I'm livin' on earth yet."
"You don't look it to all appearances," remarked Cap'n Joe in a reflective tone of voice. "But I'll agree it's many a year since I saw the top o' the water, an' I'm not expectin' to ever tramp on dry land again."
"Are you dead, or drownded, or what?" asked Cap'n Bill.
"Neither one nor t'other," was the answer. "But Zog gave me gills so's I could live in the water like fishes do, an' if I got on land I couldn't breathe air any more'n a fish out o' water can. So I guess as long as I live, I'll hev to stay down here."
"Do you like it?" asked Trot.
"Oh, I don't objec' much," said Cap'n Joe. "There ain't much excitement here, fer we don't catch a flock o' mermaids ev'ry day, but the work is easy an' the rations fair. I might o' been worse off, you know, for when my brig was wrecked, I'd 'a' gone to Davy Jones's Locker if Zog hadn't happened to find me an' made me a fish."
"You don't look as much like a fish as Cap'n Bill does," observed Trot.
"P'raps not," said Cap'n Joe, "but I notice Bill ain't got any gills an' breathes like you an' the mermaids does. When he gets back to land, he'll have his two legs again an' live in comfort breathin' air."
"I won't have two legs," asserted Cap'n Bill, "for when I'm on earth I'm fitted with one wooden leg, jes' the same as you are, Joe."
"Oh, I hadn't heard o' that, Bill, but I'm not surprised," replied Brother Joe. "Many a sailor gets to wear a wooden leg in time. Mine's hick'ry."
"So's mine," said Cap'n Bill with a air of pride. "I'm glad I've run across you, Joe, for I often wondered what had become of you. Seems too bad, though, to have to spend all your life under water."
"What's the odds?" asked Cap'n Joe. "I never could keep away from the water since I was a boy, an' there's more dangers to be met floatin' on it than there is soakin' in it. An' one other thing pleases me when I think on it: I'm parted from my wife, a mighty good woman with a tongue like a two-edge sword, an' my pore widder'll get the insurance money an' live happy. As fer me, Bill, I'm a good deal happier than I was when she kep' scoldin' me from mornin' to night every minute I was home."
"Is Zog a kind master?" asked Trot.