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The Iceberg Express (4)

2006-09-07 21:00

    The Wreck

    Mary Louise and the Mermaid Princess settled themselves back comfortably in their seats and looked about them. certainly had every convenience. Of course almost everything was made of ice. But, then, so is most everything in a Pullman car made of steel. There was really very little difference except that the ice was much prettier, it was so clear and white, and the moss cushions that covered the seats were soft and springy. The crystal chandeliers that hung from the ceiling were resplendent with little twinkling lights, and the curtains at the ice-paned windows were made of the thinnest spun ice threads. Even the little drinking cups that were packed in a column, one within the other, at the ice water tank, were made of thin ice.

    "I don't feel the least bit cold," said Mary Louise, turning with a laugh to her mermaid friend. "Do you?"

    "Not the least bit," she replied.

    "It's so different, though, from the first train we were on," continued Mary Louise. "It isn't anything like it really. Why, the first train was only an ordinary iceberg, don't you remember?"

    "That's because we never went inside," replied the mermaid. "We didn't have the opportunity, the explosion came so soon."

    "That's so," agreed Mary Louise. "The only think I distinctly remember is the Polar Bear porter calling out to be careful, and then the awful explosion. After that we were in the water and there was nothing around us but cracked ice."

    "Dining car in the rear," announced the Polar Bear porter, walking down the isle with a menu card held gracefully in his paw. "Last call for the dining car!"

    "Goodness!" exclaimed Mary Louise. "Let's hurry, or we won't be able to get anything to eat, and I always love to eat in a dining car."

    Jumping up from the seat, she and the Princess swam down the aisle, across the vestibuled platform, through the next car, and then into the diner.

    There were quite a number of passengers still seated at the different little tables. A soldierly looking Penguin sat at one and a few tables beyond a motherly looking Seal with a baby boy Seal at her side was just finishing some delicious looking pink water ice.

    Mary Louise and the Mermaid sat down at the nearest table and looked over the menu. It was great fun selecting what they wanted, and when they had finished their water ices they felt that they had dined most sumptuously.

    They then returned to their seats and looked out of the window for a time. Strange sights met their eyes as the train rushed on. There were no telegraph poles to count, nor cows to see grazing in green meadows. Instead, however, were numerous fish swimming here and there, some of gorgeous coloring, others of white or silver hue. Hills and valleys of sand, as well as long meadows of seaweed, stretched away for miles and miles. Strange-looking sea animals crawled close to the rushing train. If they came too close the suction of the water drew them along until they disappeared beneath the car.

    As darkness settled down over the quiet deep, Mary Louise turned from the window with a sigh. "I feel sleepy already," she said, "and it's only supper time!"

    "We'll tell the porter to make up our berths," said the Mermaid Princess. He can do it while we are having our supper in the dining car."

    On their return they found their berth in readiness. Soft green seaweed curtains hung gracefully to the floor, one of them being drawn aside, showing a little white bed. It looked as comfortable as her own little bed at home, Mary Louise thought.

    It took the two little mermaids but a few minutes to undress, and as soon as their tired heads touched the pillow they were sound asleep.

    Softly the seabells are ringing away, Dipping and dripping and white with the spray, Ding-dong, and ding-dong, and ding-dong, so deep, The seabells are singing me softly to sleep.

    Over and over again in her dreams little Mary Louise repeated this song. Then suddenly the bells seemed to change their tune. They clanged out wildly until a sudden loud crash awoke her with a start. The engine whistle was sending forth loud, warning cries. The Mermaid Princess began to tremble with fright.

    "What do you suppose is the matter?" she whispered.

    "I'm sure I don't know," replied little Mary Louise. "Perhaps there's something on the track."

    By this time all the passengers were thrusting their heads out through the curtains of their berths.

    "Porter, Porter!" called the Penguin, who had been vainly pressing the electric call-button.

    But as usual, when a porter was wanted he is nowhere to be found.

    Then the Baby Seal began to cry. Suddenly all the lights went out. Mary Louise hastily caught up her clothes and commenced dressing. "Thank goodness," she said in a trembling voice, "I don't have to bother with stockings!"

    "I never was anything but a Mermaid," said the Princess in a frightened whisper, "so I don't know anything about them!"

    "Where's my waist?" asked Mary Louise, hardly able to keep from crying. "I can't find it anywhere, and it's so dreadfully dark, too."

    "Oh, dear me!" suddenly cried the Mermaid Princess. "I believe I'm trying to get yours on over mine. I'm so excited I forgot that I already had on my own."

    "Well, I'm dressed at last," exclaimed Mary Louise after wriggling and squirming about for a few minutes longer. "Isn't it awful hard work dressing in a berth?"

    Suddenly the engine bell clanged out more furiously than ever. The whistle shrieked again and again. Mary Louise looked with frightened eyes at the princess who gave a cry of terror and threw her arms about her neck as the lights again went out. Then there was a sudden crash, and the Iceberg Express shivered and toppled over.

    The next instant Mary Louise and the Mermaid Princess found themselves in the water.

    It was quite warm and pleasant, and in a few minutes they reached the surface. To their surprise they saw their fellow passenger, the little Star Fish, swimming near them, and not far away, on a piece of ice, the Polar Bear porter.

    "Where are we?" asked Mary Louise. But no one replied to her question, although the Star Fish looked all around, before and behind and both sides at once, which I'm sure you can't do no matter how hard you may try——while with his fifth eye he kept a bright lookout for sharks.

    Presently the Polar Bear porter replied, "I think we are in the Caribbean Sea."

    And if you don't know where that is, please get out you map of North America, although school is over, and find it.

    "I never thought we'd get here so soon," said the little Star Fish at last. "You see, I boarded the train somewhere off Cape Cod. And that's a long way from here."

    "I got on much farther north," said the Polar Bear porter, fanning himself with a large sea shell. "Gracious me, but it's dreadfully hot down here."

    "This Caribbean Sea is as full of mountains as New Hampshire and Vermont are, but none of them have caps of snow like that which Mount Washington sometimes wears," said the Mermaid Princess. "Snow wouldn't last a second under this hot sun."

    "Where did you learn all this?" asked Mary Louise.

    "Oh, I went to the Coral School for Girls," answered the Mermaid Princess, and she sighed, for she suddenly remembered she was a long way from home.

    Just then the little Star Fish met a soft little body, much smaller than himself, who invited him to visit her relatives, who live, by millions, in this mountain region.

    So off they started for Coraltown, where this little Miss Polyp lived.

    Her father and mother, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, were all polyps. they had built the coral islands by fastening themselves to the tops of the mountains under the sea, year after year, and at last their soft bodies had turned into stone. And now you know how these millions of little polyps finally made the small islands that dotted the surface of the water. After the Star Fish and his little friend had swum away, Mary Louise spied a boat drifting toward them. So she and the Mermaid Princess scrambled inside, and the polar Bear porter hoisted a sail, which he found wrapped around a mast in the bottom of the boat.

    "Hip, hurrah, we're off once more," Shouted the Polar Bear, waving his paw, And the Mermaid Princess laughed in glee As he held the tiller and sailed o'er the sea!

    By and by the air became colder and the Mermaid said:

    "We must be near my father's castle. I think I'll slip into the ocean and swim home."

    "Before you go, please comb my hair with your magic comb so that I may be a little girl again," begged Mary Louise; "I don't want to be a mermaid forever."

    As soon as the magic pearl comb touched Mary Louise's hair her tail changed into her own little pair of legs.

    "Now kiss me good-by," said the little Mermaid Princess, and, with a splash, she disappeared in the ocean.

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