The circles were so much smaller at the bottom of the basin, and the boa_oved so much more swiftly, that Trot was beginning to get dizzy with th_otion, when suddenly the boat made a leap and dived headlong into the murk_epths of the hole. Whirling like tops, but still clinging together, th_ailor and the girl were separated from their boat and plunged down — down —
down — into the farthermost recesses of the great ocean.
At first their fall was swift as an arrow, but presently they seemed to b_oing more moderately and Trot was almost sure that unseen arms were abou_er, supporting her and protecting her. She could see nothing, because th_ater filled her eyes and blurred her vision, but she clung fast to Cap'_ill's sou'wester, while other arms clung fast to her, and so they graduall_ank down and down until a full stop was made, when they began to ascen_gain.
But it seemed to Trot that they were not rising straight to the surface fro_here they had come. The water was no longer whirling them and they seemed t_e drawn in a slanting direction through still, cool ocean depths. And then —
in much quicker time than I have told it — up they popped to the surface an_ere cast at full length upon a sandy beach, where they lay choking an_asping for breath and wondering what had happened to them.
Trot was the first to recover. Disengaging herself from Cap'n Bill's we_mbrace and sitting up, she rubbed the water from her eyes and then looke_round her. A soft, bluish-green glow lighted the place, which seemed to be _ort of cavern, for above and on either side of her were rugged rocks. The_ad been cast upon a beach of clear sand, which slanted upward from the poo_f water at their feet — a pool which doubtless led into the big ocean tha_ed it. Above the reach of the waves of the pool were more rocks, and stil_ore and more, into the dim windings and recesses of which the glowing ligh_rom the water did not penetrate.
The place looked grim and lonely, but Trot was thankful that she was stil_live and had suffered no severe injury during her trying adventure unde_ater. At her side Cap'n Bill was sputtering and coughing, trying to get ri_f the water he had swallowed. Both of them were soaked through, yet th_avern was warm and comfortable and a wetting did not dismay the little gir_n the least.
She crawled up the slant of sand and gathered in her hand a bunch of drie_eaweed, with which she mopped the face of Cap'n Bill and cleared the wate_rom his eyes and ears. Presently the old man sat up and stared at he_ntently. Then he nodded his bald head three times and said in a gurglin_oice:
"Mighty good, Trot; mighty good! We didn't reach Davy Jones's locker tha_ime, did we? Though why we didn't, an' why we're here, is more'n I kin mak_ut."
"Take it easy, Cap'n," she replied. "We're safe enough, I guess, at least fo_he time being."
He squeezed the water out of the bottoms of his loose trousers and felt of hi_ooden leg and arms and head, and finding he had brought all of his perso_ith him he gathered courage to examine closely their surroundings.
"Where d'ye think we are, Trot?." he presently asked.
"Can't say, Cap'n. P'r'aps in one of our caves."
He shook his head. "No," said he, "I don't think that, at all. The distance w_ame up didn't seem half as far as the distance we went down; an' you'l_otice there ain't any outside entrance to this cavern whatever. It's _eg'lar dome over this pool o' water, and unless there's some passage at th_ack, up yonder, we're fast pris'ners."
Trot looked thoughtfully over her shoulder.
"When we're rested," she said, "we will crawl up there and see if there's _ay to get out."
Cap'n Bill reached in the pocket of his oilskin coat and took out his pipe. I_as still dry, for he kept it in an oilskin pouch with his tobacco. Hi_atches were in a tight tin box, so in a few moments the old sailor wa_moking contentedly. Trot knew it helped him to think when he was in an_ifficulty. Also, the pipe did much to restore the old sailor's composure,
after his long ducking and his terrible fright — a fright that was more o_rot's account than his own.
The sand was dry where they sat, and soaked up the water that dripped fro_heir clothing. When Trot had squeezed the wet out of her hair she began t_eel much like her old self again. By and by they got upon their feet an_rept up the incline to the scattered boulders above. Some of these were o_uge size, but by passing between some and around others, they were able t_each the extreme rear of the cavern.
"Yes," said Trot, with interest, "here's a round hole."
"And it's black as night inside it," remarked Cap'n Bill.
Just the same," answered the girl, "we ought to explore it, and see where i_oes, 'cause it's the only poss'ble way we can get out of this place."
Cap'n Bill eyed the hole doubtfully
"It may be a way out o' here, Trot," he said, "but it may be a way into a fa_orse place than this. I'm not sure but our best plan is to stay right here."
Trot wasn't sure, either, when she thought of it in that light. After awhil_he made her way back to the sands again, and Cap'n Bill followed her. As the_at down, the child looked thoughtfully at the sailor's bulging pockets.
"How much food have we got, Cap'n?" she asked.
"Half a dozen ship's biscuits an' a hunk o' cheese," he replied. "Want som_ow, Trot?"
She shook her head, saying:
"That ought to keep us alive 'bout three days if we're careful of it."
"Longer'n that, Trot," said Cap'n Bill, but his voice was a little trouble_nd unsteady.
"But if we stay here we're bound to starve in time," continued the girl,
"while if we go into the dark hole —"
"Some things are more hard to face than starvation," said the sailor-man,
gravely. "We don't know what's inside that dark hole: Trot, nor where it migh_ead us to."
"There's a way to find that out," she persisted.
Instead of replying, Cap'n Bill began searching in his pockets. He soon dre_ut a little package of fish- hooks and a long line. Trot watched him joi_hem together. Then he crept a little way up the slope and turned over a bi_ock. Two or three small crabs began scurrying away over the sands and the ol_ailor caught them and put one on his hook and the others in his pocket.
Coming back to the pool he swung the hook over his shoulder and circled i_round his head and cast it nearly into the center of the water, where h_llowed it to sink gradually, paying out the line as far as it would go. Whe_he end was reached, he began drawing it in again, until the crab bait wa_loating on the surface.
Trot watched him cast the line a second time, and a third. She decided tha_ither there were no fishes in the pool or they would not bite the crab bait.
But Cap'n Bill was an old fisherman and not easily discouraged. When the cra_ot away he put another on the hook. When the crabs were all gone he climbe_p the rocks and found some more.
Meantime Trot tired of watching him and lay down upon the sands, where sh_ell fast asleep. During the next two hours her clothing dried completely, a_id that of the old sailor. They were both so used to salt water that ther_as no danger of taking cold.
Finally the little girl was wakened by a splash beside her and a grunt o_atisfaction from Cap'n Bill. She opened her eyes to find that the Cap'n ha_anded a silver-scaled fish weighing about two pounds. This cheered he_onsiderably and she hurried to scrape together a heap of seaweed, while Cap'_ill cut up the fish with his jackknife and got it ready for cooking.
They had cooked fish with seaweed before. Cap'n Bill wrapped his fish in som_f the weed and dipped it in the water to dampen it. Then he lighted a matc_nd set fire to Trot's heap, which speedily burned down to a glowing bed o_shes. Then they laid the wrapped fish on the ashes, covered it with mor_eaweed, and allowed this to catch fire and burn to embers. After feeding th_ire with seaweed for some time, the sailor finally decided that their suppe_as ready, so he scattered the ashes and drew out the bits of fish, stil_ncased in their smoking wrappings.
When these wrappings were removed, the fish was found thoroughly cooked an_oth Trot and Cap'n Bill ate of it freely. It had a slight flavor of seawee_nd would have been better with a sprinkling of salt.
The soft glow which until now had lighted the cavern, began to grow dim, bu_here was a great quantity of seaweed in the place, so after they had eate_heir fish they kept the fire alive for a time by giving it a handful of fue_ow and then.
From an inner pocket the sailor drew a small flask of battered metal an_nscrewing the cap handed it to Trot. She took but one swallow of the wate_lthough she wanted more, and she noticed that Cap'n Bill merely wet his lip_ith it.
"S'pose," said she, staring at the glowing seaweed fire and speaking slowly,
"that we can catch all the fish we need; how 'bout the drinking-water, Cap'n?"
He moved uneasily but did not reply. Both of them were thinking about the dar_ole, but while Trot had little fear of it the old man could not overcome hi_islike to enter the place. He knew that Trot was right, though. To remain i_he cavern, where they now were, could only result in slow but sure death.
It was nighttime up on the earth's surface, so the little girl became drows_nd soon fell asleep. After a time the old sailor slumbered on the sand_eside her. It was very still and nothing disturbed them for hours. When a_ast they awoke the cavern was light again.
They had divided one of the biscuits and were munching it for breakfast whe_hey were startled by a sudden splash in the pool. Looking toward it they sa_merging from the water the most curious creature either of them had eve_eheld. It wasn't a fish, Trot decided, nor was it a beast. It had wings,
though, and queer wings they were: shaped like an inverted chopping-bowl an_overed with tough skin instead of feathers. It had four legs — much like th_egs of a stork, only double the number — and its head was shaped a good dea_ike that of a poll parrot, with a beak that curved downward in front an_pward at the edges, and was half bill and half mouth. But to call it a bir_as out of the question, because it had no feathers whatever except a crest o_avy plumes of a scarlet color on the very top of its head. The strang_reature must have weighed as much as Cap'n Bill, and as it floundered an_truggled to get out of the water to the sandy beach it was so big and unusua_hat both Trot and her companion stared at it in wonder — in wonder that wa_ot unmixed with fear.