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
"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
"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
"Oh, very well, then, I hear the curfew,
Please go away and come some other day;
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
"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."