Cap'n Joe And Cap'n Bill

: The Sea Fairies

The rooms Zog had given his prisoners were as handsome as all other

parts of this strange enchanted castle. Gold was used plentifully in

the decorations, and in the Rose Chamber occupied by the mermaids

and Trot golden roses formed a border around the entire room. The

sea maidens had evidently been expected, for the magician had

provided couches for them to recline upon similar to the ones used

in the mermaid palaces.
he frames were of mother of pearl and the

cushions of soft, white sponges. In the room were toilet tables,

mirrors, ornaments and many articles used by earth people, which

they afterward learned had been plundered by Zog from sunken ships

and brought to his castle by his allies, the sea devils.

While the mermaids were examining and admiring their room, Cap'n

Bill went to the Peony Room to see what it was like and found his

quarters were very cozy and interesting. There were pictures on the

wall, portraits of grave-looking porpoises, bashful seals, and smug

and smiling walruses. Some of the wall panels were formed of mirrors

and reflected clearly the interior of the room. Around the ceiling

was a frieze of imitation peonies in silver, and the furniture was

peony-shaped, the broad leaves being bent to form seats and couches.

Beside a pretty dressing table hung a bell cord with a tassel at the

end. Cap'n Bill did not know it was a bell cord, so he pulled it to

see what would happen and was puzzled to find that nothing seemed to

happen at all, the bell being too far away for him to hear it. Then

he began looking at the treasures contained in this royal apartment,

and was much pleased with a golden statue of a mermaid that

resembled Princess Clia in feature. A silver flower vase upon a

stand contained a bouquet of gorgeous peonies, "as nat'ral as life,"

said Cap'n Bill, although he saw plainly that they must be made of


Trot came in just then to see how her dear friend was located. She

entered from the doorway that connected the two rooms and said,

"Isn't it pretty, Cap'n? And who'd ever think that awful creature

Zog owned such a splendid castle and kept his prisoners in such

lovely rooms?"

"I once heard tell," said the sailor, "of a foreign people that

sacrificed humans to please their pagan gods, an' before they killed

'em outright they stuffed the victims full of good things to eat an'

dressed 'em in pretty clothes an' treated 'em like princes. That's

why I don't take much comfort in our fine surroundin's, Trot. This

Zog is a pagan, if ever there was one, an' he don't mean us any

good, you may depend on 't."

"No," replied Trot soberly, "I'm sure he does not expect us to be

happy here. But I'm going to fool him and have just as good a time

as I can." As she spoke they both turned around--an easy thing to do

with a single flop of their flexible tails--and Cap'n Bill uttered a

cry of surprise. Just across the room stood a perfect duplicate of

himself. The round head, with its bald top and scraggly whiskers,

the sailor cap and shirt, the wide pantaloons, even the wooden leg,

each and every one were exact copies of those owned by Cap'n Bill.

Even the expression in the light-blue eyes was the same, and it is

no wonder the old sailor stared at his "double" in amazement. But

the next minute he laughed and said, "Why, Trot, it's ME reflected

in a mirror. But at first I thought it was someone else."

Trot was staring, too. "Look, Cap'n!" she whispered. "Look at the

wooden leg."

"Well, it's MY wooden leg, ain't it?" he inquired.

"If it is, it can't be a reflection in a mirror," she argued, "for

YOU haven't got a wooden leg. You've got a fish's tail."

The old sailor was so startled by this truth that he gave a great

flop with his tail that upset his balance and made him keel a

somersault in the water before he got right side up again. Then he

found the other sailor man laughing at him and was horrified to find

the "reflection" advancing toward them by stumping along on its

wooden leg. "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


"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"


"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


"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


"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


"You don't look as much like a fish as Cap'n Bill does," observed


"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'


"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.

"I can't say he's kind," replied Cap'n Joe, "for he's as near a

devil as any livin' critter CAN be. He grumbles an' growls in his

soft voice all day, an' hates himself an' everybody else. But I

don't see much of him. There's so many of us slaves here that Zog

don't pay much attention to us, an' we have a pretty good time when

the ol' magician is shut up in his den, as he mostly is."

"Could you help us to escape?" asked the child.

"Why, I don't know how," admitted Cap'n Joe. "There's magic all

around us, and we slaves are never allowed to leave this great cave.

I'll do what I can, o' course, but Sacho is the boy to help you if

anyone can. That little chap knows a heap, I can tell you. So now,

if nothin' more's wanted, I must get back to work."

"What work do you do?" Cap'n Bill asked.

"I sew buttons on Zog's clothes. Every time he gets mad, he busts

his buttons off, an' I have to sew 'em on again. As he's mad most o'

the time, it keeps me busy."

"I'll see you again, won't I, Joe?" said Cap'n Bill.

"No reason why you shouldn't, if you manage to keep alive," said

Cap'n Joe. "But you mustn't forget, Bill, this Zog has his grip on

you, an' I've never known anything to escape him yet."

Saying this, the old sailor began to stump toward the door, but

tripped his foot against his wooden leg and gave a swift dive

forward. He would have fallen flat had he not grabbed the drapery at

the doorway and saved himself by holding fast to it with both hands.

Even then he rolled and twisted so awkwardly before he could get

upon his legs that Trot had to laugh outright at his antics. "This

hick'ry leg," said Cap'n Joe, "is so blamed light that it always

wants to float. Agga-Groo, the goldworker, has promised me a gold

leg that will stay down, but he never has time to make it. You're

mighty lucky, Bill, to have a merman's tail instead o' legs."

"I guess I am, Joe," replied Cap'n Bill, "for in such a wet country

the fishes have the best of it. But I ain't sure I'd like this sort

o' thing always."

"Think o' the money you'd make in a side show," said Cap'n Joe with

his funny chuckling laugh. Then he pounded his wooden leg against

the hard floor and managed to hobble from the room without more


When he had gone, Trot said, "Aren't you glad to find your brother

again, Cap'n Bill?"

"Why, so-so," replied the sailor. "I don't know much about Joe,

seein' as we haven't met before for many a long year, an' all I

remember about our boyhood days is that we fit an' pulled hair most

o' the time. But what worries me most is Joe's lookin' so much like

me myself, wooden leg an' all. Don't you think it's rather cheeky

an' unbrotherly, Trot?"

"Perhaps he can't help it," suggested the child. "And anyhow, he'll

never be able to live on land again."

"No," said Cap'n Bill with a sigh. "Joe's a fish, now, an' so he

ain't likely to be took for me by one of our friends on the earth."