"You are quite wrong," said Trot. "I'm a--a girl."
"With a fish's tail?" he asked, laughing at her.
"That's only just for a while," she said, "while I'm in the water, you know. When I'm at home on the land I walk just as you do, an' so does Cap'n Bill."
"But we haven't any gills," remarked the Cap'n, looking closely at the little man's throat, "so I take it we're not as fishy as some others."
"If you mean me, I must admit you are right," said the little man, twisting his mustache. "I'm as near a fish as a man can be. But you see, Cap'n, without the gills that make me a fish, I could not live under water."
"When it comes to that, you've no business to live under water," asserted the sailor. "But I s'pose you're a slave and can't help it."
"I'm chief cook for that old horror Zog. And that reminds me, good mermaids, or good people, or good girls and sailors, or whatever you are, that I'm sent here to ask what you'd like to eat."
"Good to see you, sir," said Cap'n Bill. "I'm nearly starved, myself."
"I had it in mind," said the little man, "to prepare a regular mermaid dinner, but since you're not mermaids--"
"Oh, two of us are," said the Queen, smiling. "I, my good cook, am Aquareine, the ruler of the mermaids, and this is the Princess Clia."
"I've often heard of you, your Majesty," returned the chief cook, bowing respectfully, "and I must say I've heard only good of you. Now that you have unfortunately become my master's prisoners, it will give me pleasure to serve you as well as I am able."
"We thank you, good sir," said Aquareine.
"What have you got to eat?" inquired Trot. "Seems to me I'm hollow way down to my toes--my tail, I mean--and it'll take a lot to fill me up. We haven't eaten a morsel since breakfast, you know."
"I think I shall be able to give you almost anything you would like," said the cook. "Zog is a wonderful magician and can procure anything that exists with no more effort than a wiggle of his thumb. But some eatables, you know, are hard to serve under water, because they get so damp that they are soon ruined."
"Ah, it is different with the mermaids," said Princess Clia.
"Yes, all your things are kept dry because they are surrounded by air. I've heard how the mermaids live. But here it is different."
"Take this ring," said the Queen, handing the chief cook a circlet which she drew from her finger. "While it is in your possession, the food you prepare will not get wet, or even moist."
"I thank your Majesty," returned the cook, taking the ring. "My name is Tom Atto, and I'll do my best to please you. How would you like for luncheon some oysters on the half-shell, clam broth, shrimp salad, broiled turtle steak and watermelon?"
"That will do very nicely," answered the Queen.
"Do watermelons grow in the sea?" asked Trot.
"Of course, that is why they are called watermelons," replied Tom Atto. "I think I shall serve you a water ice, in addition to the rest. Water ice is an appropriate sea food."
"Have some watercress with the salad," said Cap'n Bill.
"I'd thought of that," declared the cook. "Doesn't my bill of fare make your mouths water?"
"Hurry up and get it ready," suggested Trot.
Tom Atto at once bowed and retired, and when they were done, Cap'n Bill said to the queen, "Do you think, ma'am, we can manage to escape from Zog and his castle?"
"I hope we shall find a way," replied Aquareine. "The evil powers of magic which Zog controls may not prove to be as strong as the fairy powers I possess, but of course I cannot be positive until I discover what this wicked magician is able to do."
Princess Clia was looking out of one of the windows. "I think I can see an opening far up in the top of the dome," she said. They all hastened to the windows to look, and although Trot and Cap'n Bill could see nothing but a solid dome above the castle--perhaps because it was so far away from them--the sharp eyes of Aquareine were not to be deceived.
"Yes," she announced, "there is surely an opening in the center of the great dome.