The Bashful Octopus
: The Sea Fairies
It was a lovely day, and the sea was like azure under the rays of
Over the flower beds and through the gardens they swam, emerging
into the open sea in a direction opposite that taken by the visitors
the day before. The party consisted of but four: Queen Aquareine,
Princess Clia, Trot and Cap'n Bill.
"People who live upon the land know only those sea creatures which
are able to catch in nets or upon hooks or those which become
disabled and are washed ashore," remarked the Queen as they swam
swiftly through the clear water. "And those who sail in ships see
only the creatures who chance to come to the surface. But in the
deep ocean caverns are queer beings that no mortal has ever heard of
or beheld, and some of these we are to visit. We shall also see some
sea shrubs and flowering weeds which are sure to delight you with
The sights really began before they had gone very far from the
palace, and a school of butterfly fish, having gorgeous colors
spattered over their broad wings, was first to delight the
strangers. They swam just as butterflies fly, with a darting, jerky
motion, and called a merry "Good morning!" to the mermaids as they
"These butterfly fish are remarkably active," said the Princess,
"and their quick motions protect them from their enemies. We like to
meet them; they are always so gay and good-natured."
"Why, so am I!" cried a sharp voice just beside them, and they all
paused to discover what creature had spoken to them.
"Take care," said Clia in a low voice. "It's an octopus."
Trot looked eagerly around. A long, brown arm stretched across their
way in front and another just behind them, but that did not worry
her. The octopus himself came slowly sliding up to them and proved
to be well worth looking at. He wore a red coat with brass buttons,
and a silk hat was tipped over one ear. His eyes were somewhat dull
and watery, and he had a moustache of long, hair-like "feelers" that
curled stiffly at the ends. When he tried to smile at them, he
showed two rows of sharp, white teeth. In spite of his red coat and
yellow-embroidered vest, his standing collar and carefully tied
cravat, the legs of the octopus were bare, and Trot noticed he used
some of his legs for arms, as in one of them was held a slender cane
and in another a handkerchief.
"Well, well!" said the Octopus. "Are you all dumb? Or don't you know
enough to be civil when you meet a neighbor?"
"We know how to be civil to our friends," replied Trot, who did not
like the way he spoke.
"Well, are we not friends, then?" asked the Octopus in an airy tone
"I think not," said the little girl. "Octopuses are horrid
"OctoPI, if you please; octoPI," said the monster with a laugh.
"I don't see any pie that pleases me," replied Trot, beginning to
"OctoPUS means one of us; two or more are called octoPI," remarked
the creature, as if correcting her speech.
"I suppose a lot of you would be a whole bakery!" she said
"Our name is Latin. It was given to us by learned scientists years
ago," said the Octopus.
"That's true enough," agreed Cap'n Bill. "The learned scientists
named ev'ry blamed thing they come across, an' gener'ly they picked
out names as nobody could understand or pernounce."
"That isn't our fault, sir," said the Octopus. "Indeed, it's pretty
hard for us to go through life with such terrible names. Think of
the poor little seahorse. He used to be a merry and cheerful fellow,
but since they named him 'hippocampus' he hasn't smiled once."
"Let's go," said Trot. "I don't like to 'sociate with octopuses."
"OctoPI," said the creature, again correcting her.
"You're jus' as horrid whether you're puses or pies," she declared.
"Horrid!" cried the monster in a shocked tone of voice.
"Not only horrid, but horrible!" persisted the girl.
"May I ask in what way?" he inquired, and it was easy to see he was
"Why, ev'rybody knows that octopuses are jus' wicked an' deceitful,"
she said. "Up on the earth, where I live, we call the Stannerd Oil
Company an octopus, an' the Coal Trust an octopus, an'--"
"Stop, stop!" cried the monster in a pleading voice. "Do you mean to
tell me that the earth people whom I have always respected compare
me to the Stannerd Oil Company?"
"Yes," said Trot positively.
"Oh, what a disgrace! What a cruel, direful, dreadful disgrace!"
moaned the Octopus, drooping his head in shame, and Trot could see
great tears falling down his cheeks.
"This comes of having a bad name," said the Queen gently, for she
was moved by the monster's grief.
"It is unjust! It is cruel and unjust!" sobbed the creature
mournfully. "Just because we have several long arms and take
whatever we can reach, they accuse us of being like--like--oh, I
cannot say it! It is too shameful, too humiliating."
"Come, let's go," said Trot again. So they left the poor octopus
weeping and wiping his watery eyes with his handkerchief and swam on
their way. "I'm not a bit sorry for him," remarked the child, "for
his legs remind me of serpents."
"So they do me," agreed Cap'n Bill.
"But the octopi are not very bad," said the Princess, "and we get
along with them much better than we do with their cousins, the sea
"Oh. Are the sea devils their cousins?" asked Trot.
"Yes, and they are the only creatures of the ocean which we greatly
fear," replied Aquareine. "I hope we shall meet none today, for we
are going near to the dismal caverns where they live."
"What are the sea devils like, ma'am?" inquired Cap'n Bill a little
"Something like the octopus you just saw, only much larger and of a
bright scarlet color, striped with black," answered the Queen. "They
are very fierce and terrible creatures and nearly as much dreaded by
the inhabitants of the ocean as is Zog, and nearly as powerful as
King Anko himself."
"Zog! Who is Zog?" questioned the girl. "I haven't heard of him
"We do not like to mention Zog's name," responded the Queen in a low
voice. "He is the wicked genius of the sea, and a magician of great
"What's he like?" asked Cap'n Bill.
"He is a dreadful creature, part fish, part man, part beast and part
serpent. Centuries ago they cast him off the earth into the sea,
where he has caused much trouble. Once he waged a terrible war
against King Anko, but the sea serpent finally conquered Zog and
drove the magician into his castle, where he now stays shut up. For
if ever Anko catches the monster outside of his enchanted castle, he
will kill him, and Zog knows that very well."
"Seems like you have your troubles down here just as we do on top
the ground," remarked Cap'n Bill.
"But I'm glad old Zog is shut up in his castle," added Trot. "Is it
a sea castle like your own palace?"
"I cannot say, my dear, for the enchantment makes it invisible to
all eyes but those of its inhabitants," replied Aquareine. "No one
sees Zog now, and we scarcely ever hear of him, but all the sea
people know he is here someplace and fear his power. Even in the old
days, before Anko conquered him, Zog was the enemy of the mermaids,
as he was of all the good and respectable seafolk. But do not worry
about the magician, I beg of you, for he has not dared to do an evil
deed in many, many years."
"Oh, I'm not afraid," asserted Trot.
"I'm glad of that," said the Queen. "Keep together, friends, and be
careful not to separate, for here comes an army of sawfishes."
Even as Aquareine spoke, they saw a swirl and commotion in the water
ahead of them, while a sound like a muffled roar fell upon their
ears. Then swiftly there dashed upon them a group of great fishes
with long saws sticking out in front of their noses, armed with
sharp, hooked teeth, all set in a row. They were larger than the
swordfishes and seemed more fierce and bold. But the mermaids and
Trot and Cap'n Bill quietly awaited their attack, and instead of
tearing them with their saws as they expected to do, the fishes were
unable to touch them at all. They tried every possible way to get at
their proposed victims, but the Magic Circle was all powerful and
turned aside the ugly saws; so our friends were not disturbed at
all. Seeing this, the sawfishes soon abandoned the attempt and with
growls and roars of disappointment swam away and were quickly out of
Trot had been a wee bit frightened during the attack, but now she
laughed gleefully and told the queen that it seemed very nice to be
protected by fairy powers. The water grew a darker blue as they
descended into its depths, farther and farther away from the rays of
the sun. Trot was surprised to find she could see so plainly through
the high wall of water above her, but the sun was able to shoot its
beams straight down through the transparent sea, and they seemed to
penetrate to every nook and crevice of the rocky bottom.
In this deeper part of the ocean some of the fishes had a
phosphorescent light of their own, and these could be seen far ahead
as if they were lanterns. The explorers met a school of argonauts
going up to the surface for a sail, and the child watched these
strange creatures with much curiosity. The argonauts live in shells
in which they are able to hide in case of danger from prowling wolf
fishes, but otherwise they crawl out and carry their shells like
humps upon their backs. Then they spread their skinny sails above
them and sail away under water till they come to the surface, where
they float and let the currents of air carry them along the same as
the currents of water had done before. Trot thought the argonauts
comical little creatures, with their big eyes and sharp noses, and
to her they looked like a fleet of tiny ships.
It is said that men got their first idea of boats and of how to sail
them from watching these little argonauts.