The Undiscovered Island

: The Sea Fairies

In following the fleet of argonauts, the four explorers had risen

higher in the water and soon found they had wandered to an open

space that seemed to Trot like the flat top of a high hill. The

sands were covered with a growth of weeds so gorgeously colored that

one who had never peered beneath the surface of the sea would

scarcely believe they were not the product of a dye shop. Every

known hue seemed represented in t
e delicate, fern-like leaves that

swayed softly to and fro as the current moved them. They were not

set close together, these branches of magnificent hues, but were

scattered sparsely over the sandy bottom of the sea so that while

from a distance they seemed thick, a nearer view found them spread

out with ample spaces of sand between them.

In these sandy spaces lay the real attractiveness of the place, for

here were many of those wonders of the deep that have surprised and

interested people in all ages.

First were the starfishes--hundreds of them, it seemed--lying

sleepily on the bottom, with their five or six points extended

outward. They were of various colors, some rich and brilliant,

others of dark brown hues. A few had wound their arms around the

weeds or were creeping slowly from one place to another, in the

latter case turning their points downward and using them as legs.

But most of them were lying motionless, and as Trot looked down upon

them she thought they resembled stars in the sky on a bright night,

except that the blue of the heavens was here replaced by the white

sand, and the twinkling diamond stars by the colored starfish.

"We are near an island," said the Queen, "and that is why so many

starfishes are here, as they love to keep close to shore. Also the

little seahorses love these weeds, and to me they are more

interesting than the starfish."

Trot now noticed the seahorses for the first time. They were quite

small--merely two or three inches high--but had funny little heads

that were shaped much like the head of a horse, and bright,

intelligent eyes. They had no legs, though, for their bodies ended

in tails which they twined around the stems of seaweeds to support

themselves and keep the currents from carrying them away.

Trot bent down close to examine one of the queer little creatures

and exclaimed, "Why, the seahorses haven't any fins or anything to

swim with."

"Oh yes we have," replied the Sea Horse in a tiny but distinct

voice. "These things on the side of my head are fins."

"I thought they were ears," said the girl.

"So they are. Fins and ears at the same time," answered the little

sea animal. "Also, there are small fins on our backs. Of course, we

can't swim as the mermaids do, or even as swiftly as fishes; but we

manage to get around, thank you."

"Don't the fishes catch and eat you?" inquired Trot curiously.

"Sometimes," admitted the Sea Horse, "and there are many other

living things that have a way of destroying us. But here I am, as

you see, over six weeks old, and during that time I have escaped

every danger. That isn't so bad, is it?"

"Phoo!" said a Starfish lying near. "I'm over three months old.

You're a mere baby, Sea Horse."

"I'm not!" cried the Sea Horse excitedly. "I'm full-grown and may

live to be as old as you are!"

"Not if I keep on living," said the Starfish calmly, and Trot knew

he was correct in his statement.

The little girl now noticed several sea spiders creeping around and

drew back because she did not think them very pretty. They were

shaped not unlike the starfishes, but had slender legs and big heads

with wicked-looking eyes sticking out of them.

"Oh, I don't like those things!" said Trot, coming closer to her


"You don't, eh?" said a big Sea Spider in a cross voice. "Why do you

come around here, then, scaring away my dinner when you're not


"It isn't YOUR ocean," replied Trot.

"No, and it isn't yours," snapped the Spider. "But as it's big

enough for us both, I'd like you to go away."

"So we will," said Aquareine gently, and at once she moved toward

the surface of the water. Trot and Cap'n Bill followed, with Clia,

and the child asked, "What island are we near?"

"It has no name," answered the Queen, "for it is not inhabited by

man, nor has it ever yet been discovered by them. Perhaps you will

be the first humans to see this island. But it is a barren, rocky

place, and only fit for seals and turtles."

"Are any of them there now?" Cap'n Bill inquired.

"I think so. We will see."

Trot was astonished to find how near they were to the "top" of the

ocean, for they had not ascended through the water very long when

suddenly her head popped into the air, and she gave a gasp of

surprise to find herself looking at the clear sky for the first time

since she had started upon this adventure by rowing into Giant's


She floated comfortably in the water, with her head and face just

out of it, and began to look around her. Cap'n Bill was at her side,

and so were the two mermaids. The day was fair, and the surface of

the sea, which stretched far away as the eye could reach, rippled

under a gentle breeze. They had risen almost at the edge of a small,

rocky islet, high in the middle, but gradually slanting down to the

water. No trees or bushes or grass grew anywhere about; only rocks,

gray and bleak, were to be seen.

Trot scarcely noticed this at first, however, for the island seemed

covered with groups of forms, some still and some moving, which the

old sailor promptly recognized as seals. Many were lying asleep or

sunning themselves; others crept awkwardly around, using their

strong fins as legs or "paddles" and caring little if they disturbed

the slumbers of the others. Once in a while one of those crowded out

of place would give a loud and angry bark, which awakened others and

set them to barking likewise.

Baby seals were there in great numbers, and were more active and

playful than their elders. It was really wonderful how they could

scramble around on the land, and Trot laughed more than once at

their antics.

At the edge of the water lay many huge turtles, some as big around

as a wagon wheel and others much smaller in size.

"The big ones are very old," said the Queen, seeing Trot's eyes

fixed on the turtles.

"How old?" asked the child.

"Hundreds of years, I think. They live to a great age, for nothing

can harm them when they withdraw their legs and heads into their

thick shells. We use some of the turtles for food, but prefer the

younger ones. Men also fish for turtles and eat them, but of course

no men ever come to this out-of-the-way place in the ocean, so the

inhabitants of this little island know they are perfectly safe."

In the center of the island rose high cliffs on top of which were to

be seen great flocks of seagulls, some whirling in the air, while

others were perched upon the points of rock.

"What do the birds find to eat?" asked Cap'n Bill.

"They often feed upon seals which die of accident or old age, and

they are expert fishermen," explained Queen Aquareine. "Curiously

enough, the seals also feed upon these birds, which they are often

able to catch in their strong jaws when the gulls venture too near.

And then, the seals frequently rob the nests of eggs, of which they

are very fond."

"I'd like a few gulls' eggs now," remarked a big seal that lay near

them upon the shore. Trot had thought him sound asleep, but now he

opened his eyes to blink lazily at the group in the water.

"Good morning," said the Queen. "Aren't you Chief Muffruff?"

"I am," answered the old seal. "And you are Aquareine, the mermaid

queen. You see, I remember you, although you haven't been here for

years. And isn't that Princess Clia? To be sure! But the other

mermaids are strangers to me, especially the bald-headed one."

"I'm not a mermaid," asserted Cap'n Bill. "I'm a sailor jes'

a-visitin' the mermaids."

"Our friends are earth dwellers," explained the Queen.

"That's odd," said Muffruff. "I can't remember that any earth

dwellers ever came this way before. I never travel far, you see, for

I'm chief of this disorderly family of seals that live on this

island--on it and off it, that is."

"You're a poor chief," said a big turtle lying beside the seal. "If

your people are disorderly, it is your own fault."

Muffruff gave a chuckling laugh. Then, with a movement quick as

lightning, he pushed his head under the shell of the turtle and gave

it a sudden jerk. The huge turtle was tossed up on edge and then

turned flat upon its back, where its short legs struggled vainly to

right its overturned body.

"There!" snorted the Seal contemptuously. "Perhaps you'll dare

insult me again in the presence of visitors, you old mud-wallower!"

Seeing the plight of the turtle, several young seals came laughingly

wabbling to the spot, and as they approached the helpless creature

drew in his legs and head and closed his two shells tightly

together. The seals bumped against the turtle and gave it a push

that sent it sliding down the beach like a toboggan, and a minute

later it splashed into the water and sank out of sight. But that was

just what the creature wanted. On shore the upset turtle was quite

helpless; but the mischievous seals saved him. For as soon as he

touched the water, he was able to turn and right himself, which he

promptly did. Then he raised his head above the water and asked:

"Is it peace or war, Muffruff?"

"Whichever you like," answered the Seal indifferently.

Perhaps the turtle was angry, for it ran on shore with remarkable

swiftness, uttering a shrill cry as it advanced. At once all the

other turtles awoke to life and with upraised heads joined their

comrade in the rush for the seals. Most of Chief Muffruff's band

scrambled hastily down the rocks and plunged into the water of the

sea without waiting for the turtles to reach them; but the chief

himself was slow in escaping. It may be that he was ashamed to run

while the mermaids were watching, but if this was so he made a great

mistake. The turtles snapped at his fins and tail and began biting

round chunks out of them so that Chief Muffruff screamed with pain

and anger and floundered into the water as fast as he could go. The

vengeful turtles were certainly the victors, and now held undisputed

possession of the island.

Trot laughed joyously at the incident, not feeling a bit sorry for

the old seal who had foolishly begun the battle. Even the gentle

queen smiled as she said:

"These quarrels between the turtles and the seals are very frequent,

but they are soon ended. An hour from now they will all be lying

asleep together just as we found them; but we will not wait for

that. Let us go."

She sank slowly beneath the water again, and the others followed

after her.