Mrs. Isaac Cutter drew a long breath, and took the shells with a look of delighted awe. “Well, I’m sure!” she said, “you’re more than kind, sir. I never thought—I do declare—Bleeding Tooth! Well, father, if that isn’t something to tell the folks at home!” Mr. Isaac Cutter grunted, well pleased, and said, “That so!” several times, his vocabulary being limited.
“Again, here,” the Skipper continued, with a glance around, to make sure that his audience was attentive, “again, here a curious thing, ladies and gentlemen. The Nighthawk shell, not common in any part of the world. The two halves held together of this manner, behold the nighthawk, as he flies through the air!”
A murmur of delight ran through the little group, and Mr. Endymion Scraper edged to the front, his fingers twitching convulsively.
“How much—how much do you want for that Nighthawk?” he asked, stammering with eagerness. “’Taint wuth much, but—what—ten dollars? I’ll give ye three, and not a cent more.”
But the Skipper put him aside with a wave of his hand.
“Another time, sir,” he said; “at future interview I will make arrangements with you, and hope to satisfy; at present I instruct these ladies a little in life under the sea.
“Lady,” he said, and it was observable that although he spoke to Mrs. Isaac Cutter, his eyes rested on Lena, and on the boy John, who stood behind her, “Nature of her abundance is very generous to the sea. Here all fishes swim, great and small; but more! All things that on earth find their place, of them you find a picture, copy, what you please to call it, at the bottom of the sea. A few only are yet found by men, yet strange things also have I seen. Not under the ocean do you think to find violets growing, is it so? yet here you observe a handful of violets, in colour as on a green bank, though without perfume, the sunshine wanting in those places.”
He drew from a box some of the exquisite little violet snail-shells, and gave them to Lena, who cried out with delight, and instantly resolved to have a pair of ear-rings made of them.
“The ladies are hungry?” the quiet voice went on. “They desire breakfast? I offer them a poached egg, grown under the sea. The colour and shape perfect; the water ladies eat them every morning, but with the air they grow hard and lose their flavour. Thank you, madam! for thirty cents only, the poached egg, not a rare variety. Your smile perhaps will make it soft again. I hope you enjoy it at luncheon.
“But before luncheon you desire to prepare your charming toilet? Here I offer you a comb, ladies, as they use under the sea. The story, that Venus, goddess of beauty, when she rose from the ocean, dropped from her hand the comb with which she arranged even then her locks of gold: hence the name, Venus’s Comb. Observe the long teeth, necessary for fine hair, like that of Venus and these ladies.”
Mrs. Isaac Cutter bridled, smoothed her “fluffy Fedora” (price one dollar and fifty cents, ready curled), and bought the “comb” on the spot.