The Sea Fairies
1. Trot And Cap'n Bill
"Nobody," said Cap'n Bill solemnly, "ever sawr a mermaid an' lived to tell the tale."
"Why not?" asked Trot, looking earnestly up into the old sailor's face.
They were seated on a bench built around a giant acacia tree that grew just at the edge of
the bluff. Below them rolled the blue waves of the great Pacific. A little way behind them
was the house, a neat frame cottage painted white and surrounded by huge eucalyptus and
pepper trees. Still farther behind that--a quarter of a mile distant but built upon a bend of
the coast--was the village, overlooking a pretty bay.
Cap'n Bill and Trot came often to this tree to sit and watch the ocean below them. The
sailor man had one "meat leg" and one "hickory leg," and he often said the wooden one
was the best of the two. Once Cap'n Bill had commanded and owned the "Anemone," a
trading schooner that plied along the coast; and in those days Charlie Griffiths, who was
Trot's father, had been the Captain's mate. But ever since Cap'n Bill's accident, when he
lost his leg, Charlie Griffiths had been the captain of the little schooner while his old
master lived peacefully ashore with the Griffiths family.
This was about the time Trot was born, and the old sailor became very fond of the baby
girl. Her real name was Mayre, but when she grew big enough to walk, she took so many
busy little steps every day that both her mother and Cap'n Bill nicknamed her "Trot," and
so she was thereafter mostly called.
It was the old sailor who taught the child to love the sea, to love it almost as much as he
and her father did, and these two, who represented the "beginning and the end of life,"
became firm friends and constant companions.
"Why hasn't anybody seen a mermaid and lived?" asked Trot again.
"'Cause mermaids is fairies, an' ain't meant to be seen by us mortal folk," replied Cap'n
"But if anyone happens to see 'em, what then, Cap'n?"
"Then," he answered, slowly wagging his head, "the mermaids give 'em a smile an' a
wink, an' they dive into the water an' gets drownded."
"S'pose they knew how to swim, Cap'n Bill?"
"That don't make any diff'rence, Trot. The mermaids live deep down, an' the poor mortals
never come up again."