“Shake hands, won’t you?” asked the man, advancing closer to the boys. “My name is Carson Blowitz, and though it sounds foreign I was born in this country. I travel around so much I can’t give you any particular place as my residence.”
There was no way without being rude of avoiding shaking hands with the man, and, though there was something in his manner that caused the boys to feel a distrust of him, they were not going to be impolite on mere suspicion.
They shook hands with Mr. Blowitz, and Jerry introduced himself, his chums, the young ladies and Professor Snodgrass, and told, briefly, the object of their trip.
“Well isn’t that nice, now,” said Mr. Blowitz, when Jerry had finished. “The professor comes out here to hunt horned toads, and you lads come to hunt adventures, Mr. Seabury comes out here in search of health and I— well, I’m out here on a sort of hunt myself.”
“Are you interested in science?” asked Mr. Snodgrass eagerly. “Perhaps you and I might go off together after horned toads and web-footed lizards. Or, if you care for snakes, or insects, I think I can show you where there are plenty.”
“No, no,” said Mr. Blowitz, with a laugh, which he tried to make sound hearty by the mere noise of it. “No, I’m on a different sort of a search. In fact it’s quite a queer story— perhaps you would like to hear it. In fact, I’m hunting for a lost ship.”
“A lost ship!” exclaimed Bob.
“Well, one that was abandoned just before she sank, and that’s about the same thing. It was abandoned quite a way out, but off this part of the coast. There is a current setting in towards shore, at this point, I’m told, and I thought I might get some news of her, or find some of the wreckage floating in on the beach. That’s why you find me here.”
“What ship is it?” asked Ned, interested in spite of the aversion he and the others felt toward Mr. Blowitz.
“It is a brig, Rockhaven by name. But suppose we go inside’? It is rather warm out here in the sun, and I’m not quite used to this climate yet. Won’t you come in and have some chocolate with me? They have a very nice drink in here, and I—”
“It’s my treat,” interrupted Bob.
“No; if I may be so bold as to insist, you must be my guests this time,” went on Mr. Blowitz. “It is not often that I see lads away off east and meet them a little later, in California, so I must have the pleasure of their company for a little while. The young ladies too— I’m very fond of young ladies,” and Mr. Blowitz smiled in a manner that Rose characterized later as “ugly,” though just why she thought so she couldn’t explain.
There was no way of getting gracefully out of the invitation, and so the crowd of young people and the professor accompanied Mr. Blowitz into the refreshment booth.
They went out into the shaded courtyard, where a fountain of splashing water at least gave the effect of coolness, if it did not really make it so. They sat at small tables, and were served with cold chocolate and sweet cakes, by a pretty Mexican girl. Bob wanted to pay for the treat but Mr. Blowitz would not hear of it. In fact he played the host in such a genial way, and seemed so anxious to make every one have a good time, that the boys were rather ashamed of their first opinion of him.