The Bashful Octopus

: The Sea Fairies

It was a lovely day, and the sea was like azure under the rays of

the sun.

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

their beauty."

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

of voice.

"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

get angry.

"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

before now."

"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.