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Chapter 2 The Cavern Under the Sea

  • 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.