"You would have a mermaid's tail," was the reply.
"What color would my scales be--pink, or purple?"
"You may choose the color yourself."
"Look ahere, Trot!" said Cap'n Bill in excitement. "You ain't thinkin' o' doin' such a fool thing, are you?"
"'Course I am," declared the little girl. "We don't get such inv'tations every day, Cap'n, and if I don't go now I may never find out how the mermaids live."
"I don't care how they live, myself," said Cap'n Bill. "I jes' want 'em to let ME live."
"There's no danger," insisted Trot.
"I do' know 'bout that. That's what all the other folks said when they dove after the mermaids an' got drownded."
"Who?" asked the girl.
"I don't know who, but I've heard tell--"
"You've heard that no one ever saw a mermaid and lived," said Trot.
"To tell the tale," he added, nodding. "An' if we dives down like they says, we won't live ourselves."
All the mermaids laughed at this, and the brown-haired one said, "Well, if you are afraid, don't come. You may row your boat out of this cave and never see us again, if you like. We merely thought it would please little Mayre, and were willing to show her the sights of our beautiful home."
"I'd like to see 'em, all right," said Trot, her eyes glistening with pleasure.
"So would I," admitted Cap'n Bill, "if we would live to tell the tale."
"Don't you believe us?" asked the mermaid, fixing her lovely eyes on those of the old sailor and smiling prettily. "Are you afraid to trust us to bring you safely back?"
"N-n-no," said Cap'n Bill, "'tain't that. I've got to look after Trot."
"Then you'll have to come with me," said Trot decidedly, "for I'm going to 'cept this inv'tation. If you don't care to come, Cap'n Bill, you go home and tell mother I'm visitin' the mermaids."
"She'd scold me inter shivers!" moaned Cap'n Bill with a shudder. "I guess I'd ruther take my chance down below."
"All right, I'm ready, Miss Mermaid," said Trot. "What shall I do? Jump in, clothes and all?"
"Give me your hand, dear," answered the mermaid, lifting a lovely white arm from the water. Trot took the slender hand and found it warm and soft and not a bit "fishy."
"My name is Clia," continued the mermaid, "and I am a princess in our deep-sea kingdom."
Just then Trot gave a flop and flopped right out of the boat into the water. Cap'n Bill caught a gleam of pink scales as his little friend went overboard, and the next moment there was Trot's face in the water among those of the mermaids. She was laughing with glee as she looked up into Cap'n Bill's face and called, "Come on in, Cap'n! It didn't hurt a bit!"
THE DEPTHS OF THE DEEP BLUE SEA
Cap'n Bill stood up in the boat as if undecided what to do. Never a sailor man was more bewildered than this old fellow by the strangeness of the adventure he had encountered. At first he could hardly believe it was all true and that he was not dreaming; but there was Trot in the water, laughing with the mermaids and floating comfortably about, and he couldn't leave his dear little companion to make the trip to the depths of the ocean alone.
"Take my hand, please, Cap'n Bill," said Princess Clia, reaching her dainty arm toward him; and suddenly the old man took courage and clasped the soft fingers in his own. He had to lean over the boat to do this, and then there came a queer lightness to his legs and he had a great longing to be in the water. So he gave a flop and flopped in beside Trot, where he found himself comfortable enough, but somewhat frightened.
"Law sakes!" he gasped. "Here's me in the water with my rheumatics! I'll be that stiff termorrer I can't wiggle."
"You're wigglin' all right now," observed Trot. "That's a fine tail you've got, Cap'n, an' its green scales is jus' beautiful."
"Are they green, eh?" he asked, twisting around to try to see them.
"Green as em'ralds, Cap'n. How do they feel?"
"Feel, Trot, feel? Why, this tail beats that ol' wooden leg all holler! I kin do stunts now that I couldn't o' done in a thousand years with ol' peg."
"And don't be afraid of the rheumatism," advised the Princess.