Exploring The Ocean

: The Sea Fairies

The queen now requested her guests to recline upon couches that they

might rest themselves from their long swim and talk more at their

ease. So the girl and the sailor allowed themselves to float

downward until they rested their bodies on two of the couches

nearest the throne, which were willingly vacated for them by the

mermaids who occupied them until then.

The visitors soon found themselves answering a
great many questions

about their life on the earth, for although the queen had said she

kept track of what was going on on the land, there were many details

of human life in which all the mermaids seemed greatly interested.

During the conversation several sea-maids came swimming into the

room bearing trays of sea apples and other fruit, which they first

offered to the queen, and then passed the refreshments around to the

company assembled. Trot and Cap'n Bill each took some, and the

little girl found the fruits delicious to eat, as they had a richer

flavor than any that grew upon land. Queen Aquareine was much

pleased when the old sailor asked for more, but Merla warned him

dinner would soon be served and he must take care not to spoil his

appetite for that meal. "Our dinner is at noon, for we have to cook

in the middle of the day when the sun is shining," she said.

"Cook!" cried Trot. "Why, you can't build a fire in the water, can


"We have no need of fires," was the reply. "The glass roof of our

kitchen is so curved that it concentrates the heat of the sun's

rays, which are then hot enough to cook anything we wish."

"But how do you get along if the day is cloudy, and the sun doesn't

shine?" inquired the little girl.

"Then we use the hot springs that bubble up in another part of the

palace," Merla answered. "But the sun is the best to cook by." So it

was no surprise to Trot when, about noon, dinner was announced and

all the mermaids, headed by their queen and their guests, swam into

another spacious room where a great, long table was laid. The dishes

were of polished gold and dainty-cut glass, and the cloth and

napkins of fine gossamer. Around the table were ranged rows of

couches for the mermaids to recline upon as they ate. Only the

nobility and favorites of Queen Aquareine were invited to partake of

this repast, for Clia explained that tables were set for the other

mermaids in different parts of the numerous palaces.

Trot wondered who would serve the meal, but her curiosity was soon

satisfied when several large lobsters came sliding into the room

backward, bearing in their claws trays loaded with food. Each of

these lobsters had a golden band behind its neck to show it was the

slave of the mermaids.

These curious waiters were fussy creatures, and Trot found much

amusement in watching their odd motions. They were so spry and

excitable that at times they ran against one another and upset the

platters of food, after which they began to scold and argue as to

whose fault it was, until one of the mermaids quietly rebuked them

and asked them to be more quiet and more careful.

The queen's guests had no cause to complain of the dinner provided.

First the lobsters served bowls of turtle soup, which proved hot and

deliciously flavored. Then came salmon steaks fried in fish oil,

with a fungus bread that tasted much like field mushrooms. Oysters,

clams, soft-shell crabs and various preparations of seafoods

followed. The salad was a delicate leaf from some seaweed that Trot

thought was much nicer than lettuce. Several courses were served,

and the lobsters changed the plates with each course, chattering and

scolding as they worked, and as Trot said, "doing everything

backwards" in their nervous, fussy way.

Many of the things offered them to eat were unknown to the visitors,

and the child was suspicious of some of them, but Cap'n Bill asked

no questions and ate everything offered him, so Trot decided to

follow his example. Certain it is they found the meal very

satisfying, and evidently there was no danger of their being hungry

while they remained the guests of the mermaids. When the fruits

came, Trot thought that must be the last course of the big dinner,

but following the fruits were ice creams frozen into the shape of


"How funny," said the child, "to be eating ice cream at the bottom

of the sea."

"Why does that surprise you?" inquired the Queen.

"I can't see where you get the ice to freeze it," Trot replied.

"It is brought to us from the icebergs that float in the northern

parts of the ocean," explained Merla.

"O' course, Trot. You orter thought o' that. I did," said Cap'n


The little girl was glad there was no more to eat, for she was

ashamed to feel she had eaten every morsel she could. Her only

excuse for being so greedy was that "ev'rything tasted just

splendid!" as she told the queen.

"And now," said Aquareine, "I will send you out for a swim with

Merla, who will show you some of the curious sights of our sea. You

need not go far this afternoon, and when you return, we will have

another interesting talk together." So the blonde mermaid led Trot

and Cap'n Bill outside the palace walls, where they found themselves

in the pretty flower gardens.

"I'd feel all right, mate, if I could have a smoke," remarked the

old sailor to the child, "but that's a thing as can't be did here in

the water."

"Why not?" asked Merla, who overheard him.

"A pipe has to be lighted, an' a match wouldn't burn," he replied.

"Try it," suggested the mermaid. "I do not mind your smoking at all,

if it will give you pleasure."

"It's a bad habit I've got, an' I'm too old to break myself of it,"

said Cap'n Bill. Then he felt in the big pocket of his coat and took

out a pipe and a bag of tobacco. After he had carefully filled his

pipe, rejoicing in the fact that the tobacco was not at all wet, he

took out his matchbox and struck a light. The match burned brightly,

and soon the sailor was puffing the smoke from his pipe in great

contentment. The smoke ascended through the water in the shape of

bubbles, and Trot wondered what anyone who happened to be floating

upon the surface of the ocean would think to see smoke coming from

the water.

"Well, I find I can smoke, all right," remarked Cap'n Bill, "but it

bothers me to understand why."

"It is because of the air space existing between the water and

everything you have about you," explained Merla. "But now, if you

will come this way, I will take you to visit some of our neighbors."

They passed over the carpet of sea flowers, the gorgeous blossoms

swaying on their stems as the motion of the people in the water

above them disturbed their repose, and presently the three entered

the dense shrubbery surrounding the palace. They had not proceeded

far when they came to a clearing among the bushes, and here Merla


Trot and Cap'n Bill paused, too, for floating in the clear water was

a group of beautiful shapes that the child thought looked like molds

of wine jelly. They were round as a dinner plate, soft and

transparent, but tinted in such lovely hues that no artist's brush

has ever been able to imitate them. Some were deep sapphire blue;

others rose pink; still others a delicate topaz color. They seemed

to have neither heads, eyes nor ears, yet it was easy to see they

were alive and able to float in any direction they wished to go. In

shape they resembled inverted flowerpots, with the upper edges

fluted, and from the centers floated what seemed to be bouquets of


"How pretty!" exclaimed Trot, enraptured by the sight.

"Yes, this is a rare variety of jellyfish," replied Merla. "The

creatures are not so delicate as they appear, and live for a long

time--unless they get too near the surface and the waves wash them


After watching the jellyfish a few moments, they followed Merla

through the grove, and soon a low chant, like that of an Indian

song, fell upon their ears. It was a chorus of many small voices and

grew louder as they swam on. Presently a big rock rose suddenly

before them from the bottom of the sea, rearing its steep side far

up into the water overhead, and this rock was thickly covered with

tiny shells that clung fast to its surface. The chorus they heard

appeared to come from these shells, and Merla said to her

companions, "These are the singing barnacles. They are really very

amusing, and if you listen carefully, you can hear what they say."

So Trot and Cap'n Bill listened, and this is what the barnacles


"We went to topsy-turvy land to see a man-o'-war,

And we were much attached to it, because we simply were;

We found an anchor-ite within the mud upon the lea

For the ghost of Jonah's whale he ran away and went to sea.

Oh, it was awful!

It was unlawful!

We rallied round the flag in sev'ral millions;

They couldn't shake us;

They had to take us;

So the halibut and cod they danced cotillions."

"What does it all mean?" asked Trot.

"I suppose they refer to the way barnacles have of clinging to

ships," replied Merla, "but usually the songs mean nothing at all.

The little barnacles haven't many brains, so we usually find their

songs quite stupid."

"Do they write some comic operas?" asked the child.

"I think not," answered the mermaid.

"They seem to like the songs themselves," remarked Cap'n Bill.

"Oh yes, they sing all day long. But it never matters to them

whether their songs mean anything or not. Let us go in this

direction and visit some other sea people."

So they swam away from the barnacle-covered rock, and Trot heard the

last chorus as she slowly followed their conductor. The barnacles

were singing:

"Oh, very well, then, I hear the curfew,

Please go away and come some other day;

Goliath tussels

With Samson's muscles,

Yet the muscles never fight in Oyster Bay."

"It's jus' nonsense!" said Trot scornfully. "Why don't they sing

'Annie Laurie' or 'Home, Sweet Home' or else keep quiet?"

"Why, if they were quiet," replied Merla, "they wouldn't be singing


They now came to one of the avenues which led from the sea garden

out into the broad ocean, and here two swordfishes were standing

guard. "Is all quiet?" Merla asked them.

"Just as usual, your Highness," replied one of the guards.

"Mummercubble was sick this morning and grunted dreadfully, but he's

better now and has gone to sleep. King Anko has been stirring around

some, but is now taking his after-dinner nap. I think it will be

perfectly safe for you to swim out for a while, if you wish."

"Who's Mummercubble?" asked Trot as they passed out into deep water.

"He's the sea pig," replied Merla. "I am glad he's asleep, for now

we won't meet him."

"Don't you like him?" inquired Trot.

"Oh, he complains so bitterly of everything that he bores us," Merla

answered. "Mummercubble is never contented or happy for a single


"I've seen people like that," said Cap'n Bill with a nod of his

head. "An' they has a way of upsettin' the happiest folks they


"Look out!" suddenly cried the mermaid. "Look out for your fingers!

Here are the snapping eels."

"Who? Where?" asked Trot anxiously.

And now they were in the midst of a cluster of wriggling, darting

eels which sported all around them in the water with marvelous

activity. "Yes, look out for your fingers and your noses!" said one

of the eels, making a dash for Cap'n Bill. At first the sailor was

tempted to put out a hand and push the creature away, but

remembering that his fingers would thus be exposed, he remained

quiet, and the eel snapped harmlessly just before his face and then

darted away.

"Stop it!" said Merla. "Stop it this minute, or I'll report your

impudence to Aquareine."

"Oh, who cares?" shouted the Eels. "We're not afraid of the


"She'll stiffen you up again, as she did once before," said Merla,

"if you try to hurt the earth people."

"Are these earth people?" asked one. And then they all stopped their

play and regarded Trot and Cap'n Bill with their little black eyes.

"The old polliwog looks something like King Anko," said one of them.

"I'm not a polliwog!" answered Cap'n Bill angrily. "I'm a respec'ble

sailor man, an' I'll have you treat me decent or I'll know why."

"Sailor!" said another. "That means to float on the water--not IN

it. What are you doing down here?"

"I'm jes' a-visitin'," answered Cap'n Bill.

"He is the guest of our queen," said Merla, "and so is this little

girl. If you do not behave nicely to them, you will surely be


"Oh, that's all right," replied one of the biggest eels, wriggling

around in a circle and then snapping at a companion, which as

quickly snapped out of his way. "We know how to be polite to company

as well as the mermaids. We won't hurt them."

"Come on, fellows, let's go scare old Mummercubble," cried another;

and then in a flash they all darted away and left our friends to

themselves. Trot was greatly relieved.

"I don't like eels," she said.

"They are more mischievous than harmful," replied Merla, "but I do

not care much for them myself."

"No," added Cap'n Bill, "they ain't respec'ful."