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   Chapter 6 THE GLASS-BOTTOM BOAT.

Owen Clancy's Happy Trail; Or, The Motor Wizard in California By Burt L. Standish Characters: 10256

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The distance from the mainland to the island of Catalina is only about twenty miles, and the steamer from San Pedro makes the trip in something like two hours and a half.

At ten o'clock in the morning Clancy and Hill went aboard, at ten-fifteen the boat got under way, and promptly at ten-seventeen Hiram became seasick. There wasn't anything halfway about it, either, he was sick all through and all over. For an hour he was afraid he was going to die, and for an hour and a half he was afraid he wasn't.

Clancy was so busy with Hill that he had no time to enjoy the trip. As soon as the boat tied up at the Avalon pier and the gangplank was run out, Hill galloped ashore, and sank down on the dock with a groan of thanksgiving. Clancy hurried after him, picked him up, and supported him to solid earth.

"I thought you were a better sailor than that, Hiram," chuckled Clancy.

"Me–a sailor?" whimpered Hill. "Say, it always makes my stomach do a hornpipe just to look at a picture of the sea. I can't cross a creek on a bridge without getting separated from my last meal. Darn it! This is why I wanted to find my lost dad in San Diego–I could go there by land. Clancy, I'm goin' to stay on this island, and live and die here. I won't never go back. Let's find a restaurant somewhere and fill up, I never was so empty in all my life."

Finding a restaurant was not difficult, for the little town was full of them. A rattling good fish dinner put Hill in a pleasanter mood, so that his wretchedness of the morning survived as only a faint and far-off memory.

Se?or Jack Lopez had a curio store on the main street of the town. The investigators were directed to his place of business, but to their disappointment, Lopez was away on the other side of the island and would not be back until evening. As they came out of the curio store, a man approached them and sounded the praises of the glass bottom boats.

"Ugh!" said Hiram, trying to get away, "no boats for mine!"

"But you don't want to leave the island without seeing the marine gardens!" exclaimed the man.

"There are enough gardens on shore to do me," answered Hill.

"My friend is afraid he'll get seasick," observed Clancy, with a wink.

"You can't get seasick in one o' my boats any more'n you could on land," averred the runner. "We jest go out around by the Sugarloaf–we're close inshore all the time."

"It's makin' me feel faint just to talk about it," said Hill. "Come on, Clancy!"

He caught the motor wizard's arm and tried to drag him off. Clancy, however, held back.

"I've heard a lot about these glass-bottom boats," said he, "and I'll have to take a trip in one. If you don't want to go, Hiram, you can sit on the dock and wait till I come back."

"No, you don't!" growled Hiram. "You and me don't get separated this trip, if I can help it. If you're going, Clancy, I'll go, too, even if it kills me."

"You won't be the least mite sick, friend," the runner insisted. "If you are, I'll give up your fare."

"That won't be a patchin' to what I'll give up–if you have to give up my fare," commented Hill. "I only hope I don't step so hard on the glass-bottom that I go through."

"You can't do that," the man laughed. "This way, gents."

He led them out on a pier and down a flight of steps to a float alongside of which a boat was moored. The boat was a flat-bottom affair, rigged with a canopy top, and having seats along the sides.

Extending down the middle of the craft was something which looked like a long box, open at the top. The lower side of the box was covered with glass. Passengers on the seats could look into the box, through the glass bottom, and see objects on the ocean's bed with wonderful clearness. A man up near the prow did the rowing.

"I claim," said the runner, "that this here's the only kind of a boat to use in seein' the marine gardens. We can go places in these little boats that they can't get, to in the big ones."

That must have been a particularly slack day for the glass-bottom boats, for Clancy and Hill were the only passengers on this particular craft.

"I reckon that's all, Ike," said the man who had brought the two youths to the boat: "let 'er go!"

Ike proceeded to use the oars, and, while the boat rounded the end of the pier, Hiram hung to his seat with both hands, and looked wildly and expectantly at Clancy.

"Beginnin' to feel squeamish," mumbled Hiram.

"Don't think about it," returned the motor wizard. "Look down at the marine gardens, Hiram."

Hill gradually forgot his uneasiness. There was hardly any motion to the boat, save a slow, steady gliding onward. Off Avalon there is no surf, the tides rise and fall, as on the mainland, but the sea is usually as quiet as the waters of a pond.

There were other glass-bottom boats out that afternoon, and they were scattered just off shore to Sugarloaf Rock and beyond. Not far from the towering Rock were two or three rowboats, each manned by an oarsman, and carrying a man in a bathing suit.

"Them's divers," explained Ike, nodding to the men in the bathing suits. "Didn't you see 'em wh

en your boat come in?"

"No," answered Hill, "I was too busy gettin' ashore. What were those divers doing when our boats came in?"

"Passengers were throwin' money overboard and they were divin' for it. You'll see 'em when you get in the steamer to go back to Pedro. Over yan by Ole Sugarloaf the divers goes down under the glass bottoms, looks up at you from below, makes faces, throws kisses at the girls, and I don't know what all. Likewise, they brings up abalone shells; you can see 'em brought up, and can buy 'em for a quarter apiece. A very pretty and interestin' souvenir of your trip to the island. Now, look down, for we're right over, the gardens."

"It's funny," remarked Hill, "that I'm such a good swimmer when this seasickness takes holt o' me so, hard and quick. Maybe if I'd swim the ocean the water wouldn't bother my stummick at all. I-"

The words died on Hill's lips. He suddenly found himself gazing from one world into another of weird beauty and wondrous enchantment.

Beneath his eyes and Clancy's there unfolded a landscape of rainbow tints flecking a forest of softly waving trees. Some of the trees bore fruit, and in and out among their branches swam fishes of silver and gold. It was like fairyland, that landscape on the bed of the sea.

"Beats anything I ever seen!" whispered the entranced Hiram. "If a mermaid was to float up to the glass bottom of this here boat and shake a finger at me, I'd go right over the side and join her in them pretty gardens."

"Wonderful!" exclaimed Clancy. "Look at the rocks and shells! You can, see them as clearly as though they were out of the water and on the land."

"Them forests," explained Ike, "are made of kelp. From kelp is where we get our iodine of commerce. It takes four hundred pounds of kelp to make one pound of iodine."

"And a million pounds of the iodine o' commerce," snorted Hiram, "ain't worth one pound o' kelp, down below and growin' same as we see. What do they, want to root it up for? Why don't they leave it where it is, to please the eye that looks down through these glass-bottom boats?"

"I pass," answered Ike wearily. "I ain't no philosopher, that-a-way. Kelp's no good and iodine's useful–that's all I know. Diver's goin' over and comin' this way," he added, with sudden animation. "Watch close, now, and maybe you'll see him pick up an abalone shell, and look up and make faces. It's right remarkable how long some o' them divers can stay under the water. Look sharp!"

Clancy and Hill looked sharp, but they couldn't see anything of the diver.

"Shucks!" grunted Ike. "He come up for another boat afore he got here. But he'll be along after a spell."

Ike rested from his rowing a bit, and filled and, lighted his pipe.

"Up there," said he, waving his hand aloft, "is the towerin' summits o' Black Jack and Orizaba, If you're goin' to be on the island overnight you don't want to miss the coach trip to the top o' the uplifts. It's ten miles up and two miles back, same road all the way," he chuckled as he exhaled a cloud of smoke, "and the round trip is only eight miles. It'll cost you a dollar apiece, and you don't want to miss it."

Clancy and Hill had already discovered that the inhabitants of Avalon had a hand out for tourist money. When one had got all he could of a guileless sight-seer, he passed him on to a brother who had something else to show. But they were a kindly lot, those Avalonians for all that.

"Now, watch!" warned Ike. "Here the diver comes, for sure!"

This time Ike was correct. Clancy and Hill, peering through the glass bottom of the boat, saw a human form glide gracefully to a point directly underneath, turn over on its back, and float face upward, full a dozen feet below the surface.

The diver commenced to throw kisses and to make faces, but he suddenly ceased that pleasing performance. His face abruptly froze as with horror, and his wide eyes looked, up at the two faces staring down through the glass.

A sharp exclamation escaped Clancy's lips. Hill gave a yell, sat up and began tearing off his coat, hat, and vest.

"It's–it's Hank Burton!" he murmured, far gone with wonder. "It's Gerald Wynn's pard, and he helped walk off with your fifteen thousand, Clancy! What's he doin' in the marine gardens, I'd like to know? Wouldn't this put kinks into your intelleck? Say!"

Hiram Hill was climbing up on his seat, bending low to avoid hitting the canopy top.

"What are you going to do?" shouted Clancy.

"I'm goin' down into the marine gardens, lookin' for trouble! If I can get my lunch hooks on that chap below, I'll bring him aboard, or ashore, or we'll both stay down in the kelp till the crack o' doom! You hear me, Clancy? That feller gave us the slip once, but he'll not do it again!"

With that, Hiram Hill kicked off his shoes, rolled over the rail and went into the water with a splash. Clancy reached for him, but was a minute too late, for his fingers clutched only empty air.

"Look!" whispered Ike huskily, leaning over the glass bottom and staring; "for the love o' Mike, look what's goin' on down there!"

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