The Depths Of The Deep Blue Sea
: The Sea Fairies
Cap'n Bill stood up in the boat as if undecided what to do. Never a
sailor man was more bewildered than this old fellow by the
strangeness of the adventure he had encountered. At first he could
hardly believe it was all true and that he was not dreaming; but
there was Trot in the water, laughing with the mermaids and floating
comfortably about, and he couldn't leave his dear little companion
to make the trip to the dep
hs of the ocean alone.
"Take my hand, please, Cap'n Bill," said Princess Clia, reaching her
dainty arm toward him; and suddenly the old man took courage and
clasped the soft fingers in his own. He had to lean over the boat to
do this, and then there came a queer lightness to his legs and he
had a great longing to be in the water. So he gave a flop and
flopped in beside Trot, where he found himself comfortable enough,
but somewhat frightened.
"Law sakes!" he gasped. "Here's me in the water with my rheumatics!
I'll be that stiff termorrer I can't wiggle."
"You're wigglin' all right now," observed Trot. "That's a fine tail
you've got, Cap'n, an' its green scales is jus' beautiful."
"Are they green, eh?" he asked, twisting around to try to see them.
"Green as em'ralds, Cap'n. How do they feel?"
"Feel, Trot, feel? Why, this tail beats that ol' wooden leg all
holler! I kin do stunts now that I couldn't o' done in a thousand
years with ol' peg."
"And don't be afraid of the rheumatism," advised the Princess. "No
mermaid ever catches cold or suffers pain in the water."
"Is Cap'n Bill a mermaid now?" asked Trot.
"Why, he's a merMAN, I suppose," laughed the pretty princess. "But
when he gets home, he will be just Cap'n Bill again."
"Wooden leg an' all?" inquired the child.
"To be sure, my dear."
The sailor was now trying his newly discovered power of swimming,
and became astonished at the feats he could accomplish. He could
dart this way and that with wonderful speed, and turn and dive, and
caper about in the water far better than he had ever been able to do
on land--even before he got the wooden leg. And a curious thing
about this present experience was that the water did not cling to
him and wet him as it had always done before. He still wore his
flannel shirt and pea jacket and his sailor cap; but although he was
in the water and had been underneath the surface, the cloth still
seemed dry and warm. As he dived down and came up again, the drops
flashed from his head and the fringe of beard, but he never needed
to wipe his face or eyes at all.
Trot, too, was having queer experiences and enjoying them. When she
ducked under water, she saw plainly everything about her as easily
and distinctly as she had ever seen anything above water. And by
looking over her shoulder she could watch the motion of her new
tail, all covered with pretty iridescent pink scales, which gleamed
like jewels. She wore her dress the same as before, and the water
failed to affect it in the least.
She now noticed that the mermaids were clothed, too, and their
exquisite gowns were the loveliest thing the little girl had ever
beheld. They seemed made of a material that was like sheeny silk,
cut low in the neck and with wide, flowing sleeves that seldom
covered the shapely, white arms of her new friends. The gowns had
trains that floated far behind the mermaids as they swam, but were
so fleecy and transparent that the sparkle of their scales might be
seen reaching back of their waists, where the human form ended and
the fish part began. The sea fairies wore strings of splendid pearls
twined around their throats, while more pearls were sewn upon their
gowns for trimmings. They did not dress their beautiful hair at all,
but let it float around them in clouds.
The little girl had scarcely time to observe all this when the
princess said, "Now, my dear, if you are ready, we will begin our
journey, for it is a long way to our palaces."
"All right," answered Trot, and took the hand extended to her with a
"Will you allow me to guide you, Cap'n Bill?" asked the blonde
mermaid, extending her hand to the old sailor.
"Of course, ma'am," he said, taking her fingers rather bashfully.
"My name is Merla," she continued, "and I am cousin to Princess
Clia. We must all keep together, you know, and I will hold your hand
to prevent your missing the way."
While she spoke they began to descend through the water, and it grew
quite dark for a time because the cave shut out the light. But
presently Trot, who was eagerly looking around her, began to notice
the water lighten and saw they were coming into brighter parts of
the sea. "We have left the cave now," said Clia, "and may swim
"I s'pose there are no winding roads in the ocean," remarked the
child, swimming swiftly beside her new friend.
"Oh yes indeed. At the bottom, the way is far from being straight or
level," replied Clia. "But we are in mid-water now, where nothing
will hinder our journey, unless--"
She seemed to hesitate, so Trot asked, "Unless what?"
"Unless we meet with disagreeable creatures," said the Princess.
"The mid-water is not as safe as the very bottom, and that is the
reason we are holding your hands."
"What good would that do?" asked Trot.
"You must remember that we are fairies," said Princess Clia. "For
that reason, nothing in the ocean can injure us, but you two are
mortals and therefore not entirely safe at all times unless we
Trot was thoughtful for a few moments and looked around her a little
anxiously. Now and then a dark form would shoot across their pathway
or pass them at some distance, but none was near enough for the girl
to see plainly what it might be. Suddenly they swam right into a big
school of fishes, all yellowtails and of very large size. There must
have been hundreds of them lying lazily in the water, and when they
saw the mermaids they merely wriggled to one side and opened a path
for the sea fairies to pass through. "Will they hurt us?" asked
"No indeed," laughed the Princess. "Fishes are stupid creatures
mostly, and this family is quite harmless."
"How about sharks?" asked Cap'n Bill, who was swimming gracefully
beside them, his hand clutched in that of pretty Merla.
"Sharks may indeed be dangerous to you," replied Clia, "so I advise
you to keep them at a safe distance. They never dare attempt to bite
a mermaid, and it may be they will think you belong to our band; but
it is well to avoid them if possible."
"Don't get careless, Cap'n," added Trot.
"I surely won't, mate," he replied. "You see, I didn't use to be
'fraid o' sharks 'cause if they came near I'd stick my wooden leg at
'em. But now, if they happens to fancy these green scales, it's all
up with ol' Bill."
"Never fear," said Merla, "I'll take care of you on our journey, and
in our palaces you will find no sharks at all."
"Can't they get in?" he asked anxiously.
"No. The palaces of the mermaids are inhabited only by themselves."
"Is there anything else to be afraid of in the sea?" asked the
little girl after they had swum quite a while in silence.
"One or two things, my dear," answered Princess Clia. "Of course, we
mermaids have great powers, being fairies; yet among the sea people
is one nearly as powerful as we are, and that is the devilfish."
"I know," said Trot. "I've seen 'em."
"You have seen the smaller ones, I suppose, which sometimes rise to
the surface or go near the shore, and are often caught by
fishermen," said Clia, "but they are only second cousins of the
terrible deep-sea devilfish to which I refer."
"Those ones are bad enough, though," declared Cap'n Bill. "If you
know any worse ones, I don't want a interduction to 'em."
"The monster devilfish inhabit caves in the rugged, mountainous
regions of the ocean," resumed the Princess, "and they are evil
spirits who delight in injuring all who meet them. None lives near
our palaces, so there is little danger of your meeting any while you
are our guests."
"I hope we won't," said Trot.
"None for me," added Cap'n Bill. "Devils of any sort ought to be
give a wide berth, an' devilfish is worser ner sea serpents."
"Oh, do you know the sea serpents?" asked Merla as if surprised.
"Not much I don't," answered the sailor, "but I've heard tell of
folks as has seen 'em."
"Did they ever live to tell the tale?" asked Trot.
"Sometimes," he replied. "They're jes' ORful creatures, mate."
"How easy it is to be mistaken," said Princess Clia softly. "We know
the sea serpents very well, and we like them."
"You do!" exclaimed Trot.
"Yes, dear. There are only three of them in all the world, and not
only are they harmless, but quite bashful and shy. They are
kind-hearted, too, and although not beautiful in appearance, they do
many kind deeds and are generally beloved."
"Where do they live?" asked the child.
"The oldest one, who is king of this ocean, lives quite near us,"
said Clia. "His name is Anko."
"How old is he?" inquired Cap'n Bill curiously.
"No one knows. He was here before the ocean came, and he stayed here
because he learned to like the water better than the land as a
habitation. Perhaps King Anko is ten thousand years old, perhaps
twenty thousand. We often lose track of the centuries down here in
"That's pretty old, isn't it?" said Trot. "Older than Cap'n Bill, I
"Summat," chuckled the sailor man, "summat older, mate, but not
much. P'raps the sea serpent ain't got gray whiskers."
"Oh yes he has," responded Merla with a laugh. "And so have his two
brothers, Unko and Inko. They each have an ocean of their own, you
know; and once every hundred years they come here to visit their
brother Anko. So we've seen all three many times."
"Why, how old are mermaids, then?" asked Trot, looking around at the
beautiful creatures wonderingly.
"We are like all ladies of uncertain age," rejoined the Princess
with a smile. "We don't care to tell."
"Older than Cap'n Bill?"
"Yes, dear," said Clia.
"But we haven't any gray whiskers," added Merla merrily, "and our
hearts are ever young."
Trot was thoughtful. It made her feel solemn to be in the company of
such old people. The band of mermaids seemed to all appearances
young and fresh and not a bit as if they'd been soaked in water for
hundreds of years. The girl began to take more notice of the sea
maidens following after her. More than a dozen were in the group;
all were lovely in appearance and clothed in the same gauzy robes as
Merla and the Princess. These attendants did not join in the
conversation but darted here and there in sportive play, and often
Trot heard the tinkling chorus of their laughter. Whatever doubts
might have arisen in the child's mind through the ignorant tales of
her sailor friend, she now found the mermaids to be light-hearted,
joyous and gay, and from the first she had not been in the least
afraid of her new companions.
"How much farther do we have to go?" asked Cap'n Bill presently.
"Are you getting tired?" Merla inquired.
"No," said he, "but I'm sorter anxious to see what your palaces look
like. Inside the water ain't as interestin' as the top of it. It's
fine swimmin', I'll agree, an' I like it, but there ain't nuthin'
special to see that I can make out."
"That is true, sir," replied the Princess. "We have purposely led
you through the mid-water hoping you would see nothing to alarm you
until you get more accustomed to our ocean life. Moreover, we are
able to travel more swiftly here. How far do you think we have
already come, Cap'n?"
"Oh, 'bout two mile," he answered.
"Well, we are now hundreds of miles from the cave where we started,"
she told him.
"You don't mean it!" he exclaimed in wonder.
"Then there's magic in it," announced Trot soberly.
"True, my dear. To avoid tiring you and to save time, we have used a
little of our fairy power," said Clia. "The result is that we are
nearing our home. Let us go downward a bit, now, for you must know
that the mermaid palaces are at the very bottom of the ocean, and in
its deepest part."