TROT AND CAP'N BILL
"Nobody," said Cap'n Bill solemnly, "ever sawr a mermaid an' lived
to tell the tale."
"Why not?" asked Trot, looking earnestly up into the old sailor's
They were seated on a bench built around a giant acacia tree that
grew just at the edge of the bluff. Below them rolled the blue waves of
the great Pacific. A little way behind them was the house, a neat frame
cottage painted white and surrounded by huge eucalyptus and pepper trees.
Still farther behind that--a quarter of a mile distant but built upon a
bend of the coast--was the village, overlooking a pretty bay.
Cap'n Bill and Trot came often to this tree to sit and watch the
ocean below them. The sailor man had one "meat leg" and one "hickory
leg," and he often said the wooden one was the best of the two. Once
Cap'n Bill had commanded and owned the "Anemone," a trading schooner that
plied along the coast; and in those days Charlie Griffiths, who was
Trot's father, had been the Captain's mate. But ever since Cap'n Bill's
accident, when he lost his leg, Charlie Griffiths had been the captain of
the little schooner while his old master lived peacefully ashore with the
This was about the time Trot was born, and the old sailor became
very fond of the baby girl. Her real name was Mayre, but when she grew
big enough to walk, she took so many busy little steps every day that
both her mother and Cap'n Bill nicknamed her "Trot," and so she was
thereafter mostly called.
It was the old sailor who taught the child to love the sea, to
love it almost as much as he and her father did, and these two, who
represented the "beginning and the end of life," became firm friends and
"Why hasn't anybody seen a mermaid and lived?" asked Trot again.
"'Cause mermaids is fairies, an' ain't meant to be seen by us
mortal folk," replied Cap'n Bill.
"But if anyone happens to see 'em, what then, Cap'n?"
"Then," he answered, slowly wagging his head, "the mermaids give
'em a smile an' a wink, an' they dive into the water an' gets drownded."
"S'pose they knew how to swim, Cap'n Bill?"
"That don't make any diff'rence, Trot. The mermaids live deep
down, an' the poor mortals never come up again."
The little girl was thoughtful for a moment. "But why do folks
dive in the water when the mermaids smile an' wink?" she asked.
"Mermaids," he said gravely, "is the most beautiful creatures in
the world--or the water, either. You know what they're like, Trot,
they's got a lovely lady's form down to the waist, an' then the other
half of 'em's a fish, with green an' purple an' pink scales all down it."
"Have they got arms, Cap'n Bill?"
"'Course, Trot; arms like any other lady. An' pretty faces that
smile an' look mighty sweet an' fetchin'. Their hair is long an' soft
an' silky, an' floats all around 'em in the water. When they comes up
atop the waves, they wring the water out'n their hair and sing songs that
go right to your heart. If anybody is unlucky enough to be 'round jes'
then, the beauty o' them mermaids an' their sweet songs charm 'em like
magic; so's they plunge into the waves to get to the mermaids. But the
mermaids haven't any hearts, Trot, no more'n a fish has; so they laughs
when the poor people drown an' don't care a fig. That's why I says, an' I
says it true, that nobody never sawr a mermaid an' lived to tell the
"Nobody?" asked Trot.
"Nobody a tall." (sic)
"Then how do you know, Cap'n Bill?" asked the little girl,
looking up into his face with big, round eyes.
Cap'n Bill coughed. Then he tried to sneeze, to gain time. Then
he took out his red cotton handkerchief and wiped his bald head with it,
rubbing hard so as to make him think clearer. "Look, Trot; ain't that a
brig out there?" he inquired, pointing to a sail far out in the sea.
"How does anybody know about mermaids if those who have seen them
never lived to tell about them?" she asked again.
"Know what about 'em, Trot?"
"About their green and pink scales and pretty songs and wet
"They don't know, I guess. But mermaids jes' natcherly has to be
like that, or they wouldn't be mermaids."
She thought this over. "Somebody MUST have lived, Cap'n Bill,"
she declared positively. "Other fairies have been seen by mortals; why
"P'raps they have, Trot, p'raps they have," he answered musingly.
"I'm tellin' you as it was told to me, but I never stopped to inquire
into the matter so clost(sic), before. Seems like folks wouldn't know so
much about mermaids if they hadn't seen 'em; an' yet accordin' to all
accounts the victim is bound to get drownded."
"P'raps," suggested Trot softly, "someone found a fotygraph of
one of 'em."
"That might o' been, Trot, that might o' been," answered Cap'n Bill.
A nice man was Cap'n Bill, and Trot knew he always liked to
explain everything so she could fully understand it. The aged sailor was
not a very tall man, and some people might have called him chubby, or
even fat. He wore a blue sailor shirt with white anchors worked on the
corners of the broad, square collar, and his blue trousers were very wide
at the bottom. He always wore one trouser leg over his wooden limb and
sometimes it would flutter in the wind like a flag because it was so wide
and the wooden leg so slender. His rough kersey coat was a pea-jacket
and came down to his waistline. In the big pockets of his jacket he kept
a wonderful jackknife, and his pipe and tobacco, and many bits of string,
and matches and keys and lots of other things. Whenever Cap'n Bill
thrust a chubby hand into one of his pockets, Trot watched him with
breathless interest, for she never knew what he was going to pull out.
The old sailor's face was brown as a berry. He had a fringe of
hair around the back of his head and a fringe of whisker around the edge
of his face, running from ear to ear and underneath his chin. His eyes
were light blue and kind in expression. His nose was big and broad, and
his few teeth were not strong enough to crack nuts with.
Trot liked Cap'n Bill and had a great deal of confidence in his
wisdom, and a great admiration for his ability to make tops and whistles
and toys with that marvelous jackknife of his. In the village were many
boys and girls of her own age, but she never had as much fun playing with
them as she had wandering by the sea accompanied by the old sailor and
listening to his fascinating stories.
She knew all about the Flying Dutchman, and Davy Jones' Locker,
and Captain Kidd, and how to harpoon a whale or dodge an iceberg or lasso
a seal. Cap'n Bill had been everywhere in the world, almost, on his many
voyages. He had been wrecked on desert islands like Robinson Crusoe and
been attacked by cannibals, and had a host of other exciting adventures.
So he was a delightful comrade for the little girl, and whatever Cap'n
Bill knew Trot was sure to know in time.
"How do the mermaids live?" she asked. "Are they in caves, or
just in the water like fishes, or how?"
"Can't say, Trot," he replied. "I've asked divers about that, but
none of 'em ever run acrost a mermaid's nest yet, as I've heard of."
"If they're fairies," she said, "their homes must be very pretty."
"Mebbe so, Trot, but damp. They are sure to be damp, you know."
"I'd like to see a mermaid, Cap'n Bill," said the child earnestly.
"What, an' git drownded?" he exclaimed.
"No, and live to tell the tale. If they're beautiful, and
laughing, and sweet, there can't be much harm in them, I'm sure."
"Mermaids is mermaids," remarked Cap'n Bill in his most solemn
voice. "It wouldn't do us any good to mix up with 'em, Trot."
"May-re! May-re!" called a voice from the house.
"You an' Cap'n Bill come in to supper."
The next morning, as soon as Trot had helped wipe the breakfast
dishes and put them away in the cupboard, the little girl and Cap'n Bill
started out toward the bluff. The air was soft and warm and the sun
turned the edges of the waves into sparkling diamonds. Across the bay
the last of the fisherboats was speeding away out to sea, for well the
fishermen knew this was an ideal day to catch rockbass, barracuda and
The old man and the young girl stood on the bluff and watched all
this with interest. Here was their world. "It isn't a bit rough this
morning. Let's have a boat ride, Cap'n Bill," said the child.
"Suits me to a T," declared the sailor. So they found the winding
path that led down the face of the cliff to the narrow beach below and
cautiously began the descent. Trot never minded the steep path or the
loose rocks at all, but Cap'n Bill's wooden leg was not so useful on a
downgrade as on a level, and he had to be careful not to slip and take a
But by and by they reached the sands and walked to a spot just
beneath the big acacia tree that grew on the bluff. Halfway to the top of
the cliff hung suspended a little shed-like structure that sheltered
Trot's rowboat, for it was necessary to pull the boat out of reach of the
waves which beat in fury against the rocks at high tide. About as high up
as Cap'n Bill could reach was an iron ring securely fastened to the cliff,
and to this ring was tied a rope. The old sailor unfastened the knot and
began paying out the rope, and the rowboat came out of its shed and glided
slowly downward to the beach. It hung on a pair of davits and was lowered
just as a boat is lowered from a ship's side. When it reached the sands,
the sailor unhooked the ropes and pushed the boat to the water's edge.
It was a pretty little craft, light and strong, and Cap'n Bill knew how to
sail it or row it, as Trot might desire.
Today they decided to row, so the girl climbed into the bow and
her companion stuck his wooden leg into the water's edge "so he wouldn't
get his foot wet" and pushed off the little boat as he climbed aboard.
Then he seized the oars and began gently paddling.
"Whither away, Commodore Trot?" he asked gaily.
"I don't care, Cap'n. It's just fun enough to be on the water,"
she answered, trailing one hand overboard. So he rowed around by the
North Promontory, where the great caves were, and much as they were
enjoying the ride, they soon began to feel the heat of the sun.
"That's Dead Man's Cave, 'cause a skellington was found there,"
observed the child as they passed a dark, yawning mouth in the cliff. "And
that's Bumble Cave, 'cause the bumblebees make nests in the top of it.
And here's Smuggler's Cave, 'cause the smugglers used to hide things in
She knew all the caves well, and so did Cap'n Bill. Many of them
opened just at the water's edge, and it was possible to row their boat
far into their dusky depths.
"And here's Echo Cave," she continued, dreamily, as they slowly
moved along the coast, "and Giant's Cave, and--oh, Cap'n Bill! Do you
s'pose there were ever any giants in that cave?"
"'Pears like there must o' been, Trot, or they wouldn't o' named
it that name," he replied, pausing to wipe his bald head with the red
handkerchief while the oars dragged in the water.
"We've never been into that cave, Cap'n," she remarked, looking at
the small hole in the cliff--an archway through which the water flowed.
"Let's go in now."
"What for, Trot?"
"To see if there's a giant there."
"Hm. Aren't you 'fraid?"
"No, are you? I just don't b'lieve it's big enough for a giant to
"Your father was in there once," remarked Cap'n Bill, "an' he says
it's the biggest cave on the coast, but low down. It's full o' water, an'
the water's deep down to the very bottom o' the ocean; but the rock roof's
liable to bump your head at high tide."
"It's low tide now," returned Trot. "And how could any giant live
in there if the roof is so low down?"
"Why, he couldn't, mate. I reckon they must have called it
Giant's Cave 'cause it's so big, an' not 'cause any giant man lived
"Let's go in," said the girl again. "I'd like to 'splore it."
"All right," replied the sailor. "It'll be cooler in there than
out here in the sun. We won't go very far, for when the tide turns we
mightn't get out again." He picked up the oars and rowed slowly toward
the cave. The black archway that marked its entrance seemed hardly big
enough to admit the boat at first, but as they drew nearer, the opening
became bigger. The sea was very calm here, for the headland shielded it
from the breeze.
"Look out fer your head, Trot!" cautioned Cap'n Bill as the boat
glided slowly into the rocky arch. But it was the sailor who had to duck,
instead of the little girl. Only for a moment, though. Just beyond the
opening the cave was higher, and as the boat floated into the dim interior
they found themselves on quite an extensive branch of the sea. For a time
neither of them spoke and only the soft lapping of the water against the
sides of the boat was heard. A beautiful sight met the eyes of the two
adventurers and held them dumb with wonder and delight.
It was not dark in this vast cave, yet the light seemed to come
from underneath the water, which all around them glowed with an exquisite
sapphire color. Where the little waves crept up the sides of the rocks
they shone like brilliant jewels, and every drop of spray seemed a gem fit
to deck a queen. Trot leaned her chin on her hands and her elbows on her
lap and gazed at this charming sight with real enjoyment. Cap'n Bill drew
in the oars and let the boat drift where it would while he also sat
silently admiring the scene.
Slowly the little craft crept farther and farther into the dim
interior of the vast cavern, while its two passengers feasted their eyes
on the beauties constantly revealed. Both the old seaman and the little
girl loved the ocean in all its various moods. To them it was a constant
companion and a genial comrade. If it stormed and raved, they laughed
with glee; if it rolled great breakers against the shore, they clapped
their hands joyfully; if it lay slumbering at their feet, they petted and
caressed it, but always they loved it.
Here was the ocean yet. It had crept under the dome of
overhanging rock to reveal itself crowned with sapphires and dressed in
azure gown, revealing in this guise new and unexpected charms. "Good
morning, Mayre," said a sweet voice.
Trot gave a start and looked around her in wonder. Just beside
her in the water were little eddies--circles within circles--such as are
caused when anything sinks below the surface. "Did--did you hear that,
Cap'n Bill?" she whispered solemnly.
Cap'n Bill did not answer. He was staring with eyes that fairly
bulged out at a place behind Trot's back, and he shook a little, as if
trembling from cold. Trot turned half around, and then she stared, too.
Rising from the blue water was a fair face around which floated a mass of
long, blonde hair. It was a sweet, girlish face with eyes of the same
deep blue as the water and red lips whose dainty smile disposed two rows
of pearly teeth. The cheeks were plump and rosy, the brows gracefully
penciled,while the chin was rounded and had a pretty dimple in it.
"The most beauti-ful-est in all the world," murmured Cap'n Bill in
a voice of horror, "an' no one has ever lived to--to tell the tale!"
There was a peal of merry laughter at this, laughter that rippled
and echoed throughout the cavern. Just at Trot's side appeared a new face
even fairer than the other, with a wealth of brown hair wreathing the
lovely features. And the eyes smiled kindly into those of the child. "Are
you a--a mermaid?" asked Trot curiously. She was not a bit afraid. They
seemed both gentle and friendly.
"Yes, dear," was the soft answer.
"We are all mermaids!" chimed a laughing chorus, and here and
there, all about the boat, appeared pretty faces lying just upon the
surface of the water.
"Are you part fishes?" asked Trot, greatly pleased by this
"No, we are all mermaid," replied the one with the brown hair.
"The fishes are partly like us, because they live in the sea and must move
about. And you are partly like us, Mayre dear, but have awkward stiff
legs so you may walk on the land. But the mermaids lived before fishes
and before mankind, so both have borrowed something from us."
"Then you must be fairies if you've lived always," remarked Trot,
"We are, dear. We are the water fairies," answered the one with
the blonde hair, coming nearer and rising till her slender white throat
"We--we're goners, Trot!" sighed Cap'n Bill with a white,
"I guess not, Cap'n," she answered calmly. "These pretty
mermaids aren't going to hurt us, I'm sure."
"No indeed," said the first one who had spoken. "If we were
wicked enough to wish to harm you, our magic could reach you as easily
upon the land as in this cave. But we love little girls dearly and wish
only to please them and make their lives more happy."
"I believe that!" cried Trot earnestly.
Cap'n Bill groaned.
"Guess why we have appeared to you," said another mermaid, coming
to the side of the boat.
"Why?" asked the child.
"We heard you say yesterday you would like to see a mermaid, and
so we decided to grant your wish."
"That was real nice of you," said Trot gratefully.
"Also, we heard all the foolish things Cap'n Bill said about us,"
remarked the brown-haired one smilingly, "and we wanted to prove to him
that they were wrong."
"I on'y said what I've heard," protested Cap'n Bill. "Never
havin' seen a mermaid afore, I couldn't be ackerate, an' I never expected
to see one an' live to tell the tale."
Again the cave rang with merry laughter, and as it died away, Trot
said, "May I see your scales, please? And are they green and purple and
pink like Cap'n Bill said?" They seemed undecided what to say to this and
swam a little way off, where the beautiful heads formed a group that was
delightful to see. Perhaps they talked together, for the brown-haired
mermaid soon came back to the side of the boat and asked, "Would you like
to visit our kingdom and see all the wonders that exist below the sea?"
"I'd like to," replied Trot promptly, "but I couldn't. I'd get
"That you would, mate!" cried Cap'n Bill.
"Oh no," said the mermaid. "We would make you both like one of
ourselves, and then you could live within the water as easily as we do."
"I don't know as I'd like that," said the child, "at least for
"You need not stay with us a moment longer than you please,"
returned the mermaid, smiling as if amused at the remark. "Whenever you
are ready to return home, we promise to bring you to this place again and
restore to you the same forms you are now wearing."
"Would I have a fish's tail?" asked Trot earnestly.
"You would have a mermaid's tail," was the reply.
"What color would my scales be--pink, or purple?"
"You may choose the color yourself."
"Look ahere, Trot!" said Cap'n Bill in excitement. "You ain't
thinkin' o' doin' such a fool thing, are you?"
"'Course I am," declared the little girl. "We don't get such
inv'tations every day, Cap'n, and if I don't go now I may never find out
how the mermaids live."
"I don't care how they live, myself," said Cap'n Bill. "I jes'
want 'em to let ME live."
"There's no danger," insisted Trot.
"I do' know 'bout that. That's what all the other folks said when
they dove after the mermaids an' got drownded."
"Who?" asked the girl.
"I don't know who, but I've heard tell--"
"You've heard that no one ever saw a mermaid and lived," said Trot.
"To tell the tale," he added, nodding. "An' if we dives down like
they says, we won't live ourselves."
All the mermaids laughed at this, and the brown-haired one said,
"Well, if you are afraid, don't come. You may row your boat out of this
cave and never see us again, if you like. We merely thought it would
please little Mayre, and were willing to show her the sights of our
"I'd like to see 'em, all right," said Trot, her eyes glistening
"So would I," admitted Cap'n Bill, "if we would live to tell the
"Don't you believe us?" asked the mermaid, fixing her lovely eyes
on those of the old sailor and smiling prettily. "Are you afraid to trust
us to bring you safely back?"
"N-n-no," said Cap'n Bill, "'tain't that. I've got to look after
"Then you'll have to come with me," said Trot decidedly, "for I'm
going to 'cept this inv'tation. If you don't care to come, Cap'n Bill,
you go home and tell mother I'm visitin' the mermaids."
"She'd scold me inter shivers!" moaned Cap'n Bill with a shudder.
"I guess I'd ruther take my chance down below."
"All right, I'm ready, Miss Mermaid," said Trot. "What shall I
do? Jump in, clothes and all?"
"Give me your hand, dear," answered the mermaid, lifting a lovely
white arm from the water. Trot took the slender hand and found it warm
and soft and not a bit "fishy."
"My name is Clia," continued the mermaid, "and I am a princess in
our deep-sea kingdom."
Just then Trot gave a flop and flopped right out of the boat into
the water. Cap'n Bill caught a gleam of pink scales as his little friend
went overboard, and the next moment there was Trot's face in the water
among those of the mermaids. She was laughing with glee as she looked up
into Cap'n Bill's face and called, "Come on in, Cap'n! It didn't hurt a
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 depths 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
"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 trustful smile.
"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 straight home."
"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 protect you."
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 Trot.
"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'
"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 the sea."
"That's pretty old, isn't it?" said Trot. "Older than Cap'n Bill,
"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,
"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
Trot was surprised to find it was not at all dark or gloomy as
they descended farther into the deep sea. Things were not quite so clear
to her eyes as they had been in the bright sunshine above the ocean's
surface, but every object was distinct nevertheless, as if she saw through
a pane of green-tainted glass. The water was very clear except for this
green shading, and the little girl had never before felt so light and
buoyant as she did now. It was no effort at all to dart through the
water, which seemed to support her on all sides.
"I don't believe I weigh anything at all," she said to Cap'n Bill.
"No more do I, Trot," said he. "But that's nat'ral, seein' as
we're under water so far. What bothers me most is how we manage to
breathe, havin' no gills like fishes have."
"Are you sure we haven't any gills?" she asked, lifting her free
hand to feel her throat.
"Sure. Ner the mermaids haven't any, either," declared Cap'n Bill.
"Then," said Trot, "we're breathing by magic."
The mermaids laughed at this shrewd remark, and the Princess said,
"You have guessed correctly, my dear. Go a little slower, now, for the
palaces are in sight."
"Where?" asked Trot eagerly.
"Just before you."
"In that grove of trees?" inquired the girl. And really, it
seemed to her that they were approaching a beautiful grove. The bottom of
the sea was covered with white sand, in which grew many varieties of sea
shrubs with branches like those of trees. Not all of them were green,
however, for the branches and leaves were of a variety of gorgeous colors.
Some were purple, shading down to a light lavender; and there were reds
all the way from a delicate rose-pink to vivid shades of scarlet. Orange,
yellow and blue shades were there, too, mingling with the sea-greens in a
most charming manner. Altogether, Trot found the brilliant coloring
These sea shrubs, which in size were quite as big and tall as the
trees on earth, were set so close together that their branches entwined;
but there were several avenues leading into the groves, and at the
entrance to each avenue the girl noticed several large fishes with long
spikes growing upon their noses.
"Those are swordfishes," remarked the Princess as she led the band
past one of these avenues.
"Are they dang'rous?" asked Trot.
"Not to us," was the reply. "The swordfishes are among our most
valued and faithful servants, guarding the entrances to the gardens which
surround our palaces. If any creatures try to enter uninvited, these
guards fight them and drive them away. Their swords are sharp and
strong, and they are fierce fighters, I assure you."
"I've known 'em to attack ships, an' stick their swords right
through the wood," said Cap'n Bill.
"Those belonged to the wandering tribes of swordfishes," explained
the Princess. "These, who are our servants, are too sensible and
intelligent to attack ships."
The band now headed into a broad passage through the "gardens," as
the mermaids called these gorgeous groves, and the great swordfishes
guarding the entrance made way for them to pass, afterward resuming their
posts with watchful eyes. As they slowly swam along the avenue, Trot
noticed that some of the bushes seemed to have fruits growing upon them,
but what these fruits might be neither she nor Cap'n Bill could guess.
The way wound here and there for some distance, till finally they
came to a more open space all carpeted with sea flowers of exquisite
colorings. Although Trot did not know it, these flowers resembled the
rare orchids of earth in their fanciful shapes and marvelous hues. The
child did not examine them very closely, for across the carpet of flowers
loomed the magnificent and extensive palaces of the mermaids.
These palaces were built of coral; white, pink and yellow being
used, and the colors arranged in graceful designs. The front of the main
palace, which now faced them, had circular ends connecting the straight
wall, not unlike the architecture we are all familiar with; yet there
seemed to be no windows to the building, although a series of archways
served as doors.
Arriving at one of the central archways, the band of sea maidens
separated. Princess Clia and Merla leading Trot and Cap'n Bill into the
palace, while the other mermaids swam swiftly away to their own quarters.
"Welcome!" said Clia in her sweet voice. "Here you are surrounded
only by friends and are in perfect safety. Please accept our hospitality
as freely as you desire, for we consider you honored guests. I hope you
will like our home," she added a little shyly.
"We are sure to, dear Princess," Trot hastened to say.
Then Clia escorted them through the archway and into a lofty hall.
It was not a mere grotto, but had smoothly built walls of pink coral
inlaid with white. Trot at first thought there was no roof, for looking
upward she could see the water all above them. But the princess, reading
her thought, said with a smile, "Yes, there is a roof, or we would be
unable to keep all the sea people out of our palace. But the roof is made
of glass to admit the light."
"Glass!" cried the astonished child. "Then it must be an awful
big pane of glass."
"It is," agreed Clia. "Our roofs are considered quite wonderful,
and we owe them to the fairy powers of our queen. Of course, you
understand there is no natural way to make glass under water."
"No indeed," said Cap'n Bill. And then he asked, "Does your queen
"Yes. She is waiting now, in her throne room, to welcome you.
Shall we go in?"
"I'd just as soon," replied Trot rather timidly, but she boldly
followed the princess, who glided through another arch into another small
room where several mermaids were reclining upon couches of coral. They
were beautifully dressed and wore many sparkling jewels.
"Her Majesty is awaiting the strangers, Princess Clia," announced
one of these. "You are asked to enter at once."
"Come, then," said Clia, and once more taking Trot's hand, she led
the girl through still another arch, while Merla followed just behind
them, escorting Cap'n Bill. They now entered an apartment so gorgeous
that the child fairly gasped with astonishment. The queen's throne room
was indeed the grandest and most beautiful chamber in all the ocean
palaces. Its coral walls were thickly inlaid with mother-of-pearl,
exquisitely shaded and made into borders and floral decorations. In the
corners were cabinets, upon the shelves of which many curious shells were
arranged, all beautifully polished. The floor glittered with gems
arranged in patterns of flowers, like a brilliant carpet.
Near the center of the room was a raised platform of
mother-of-pearl upon which stood a couch thickly studded with diamonds,
rubies, emeralds and pearls. Here reclined Queen Aquareine, a being so
lovely that Trot gazed upon her spellbound and Cap'n Bill took off his
sailor cap and held it in his hands.
All about the room were grouped other mother-of-pearl couches, not
raised like that of the queen, and upon each of these reclined a pretty
mermaid. They could not sit down as we do, Trot readily understood,
because of their tails; but they rested very gracefully upon the couches
with their trailing gauzy robes arranged in fleecy folds.
When Clia and Merla escorted the strangers down the length of the
great room toward the royal throne, they met with pleasant looks and
smiles on every side, for the sea maidens were too polite to indulge in
curious stares. They paused just before the throne, and the queen raised
her head upon one elbow to observe them. "Welcome, Mayre," she said, "and
welcome, Cap'n Bill. I trust you are pleased with your glimpse of the
life beneath the surface of our sea."
"I am," answered Trot, looking admiringly at the beautiful face of
"It's all mighty cur'ous an' strange-like," said the sailor
slowly. "I'd no idee you mermaids were like this, at all!"
"Allow me to explain that it was to correct your wrong ideas about
us that led me to invite you to visit us," replied the Queen. "We usually
pay little heed to the earth people, for we are content in our own
dominions; but, of course, we know all that goes on upon your earth. So
when Princess Clia chanced to overhear your absurd statements concerning
us, we were greatly amused and decided to let you see with your own eyes
just what we are like."
"I'm glad you did," answered Cap'n Bill, dropping his eyes in some
confusion as he remembered his former description of the mermaids.
"Now that you are here," continued the Queen in a cordial,
friendly tone, "you may as well remain with us a few days and see the
wonderful sights of our ocean."
"I'm much obliged to you, ma'am," said Trot, "and I'd like to stay
ever so much, but mother worries jus' dreadfully if we don't get home in
"I'll arrange all that," said Aquareine with a smile.
"How?" asked the girl.
"I will make your mother forget the passage of time so she will
not realize how long you are away. Then she cannot worry."
"Can you do that?" inquired Trot.
"Very easily. I will send your mother into a deep sleep that will
last until you are ready to return home. Just at present she is seated in
her chair by the front window, engaged in knitting." The queen paused to
raise an arm and wave it slowly to and fro. Then she added, "Now your
good mother is asleep, little Mayre, and instead of worries I promise her
"Won't someone rob the house while she's asleep?" asked the child
"No, dear. My charm will protect the house from any intrusion."
"That's fine!" exclaimed Trot in delight.
"It's jes' won-erful!" said Cap'n Bill. "I wish I knew it was so.
Trot's mother has a awful sharp tongue when she's worried."
"You may see for yourselves," declared the Queen, and waved her
hand again. At once they saw before them the room in the cottage, with
Mayre's mother asleep by the window. Her knitting was in her lap, and the
cat lay curled up beside her chair. It was all so natural that Trot
thought she could hear the clock over the fireplace tick. After a moment
the scene faded away, when the queen asked with another smile, "Are you
"Oh yes!" cried Trot. "But how could you do it?"
"It is a form of mirage," was the reply. "We are able to bring
any earth scene before us whenever we wish. Sometimes these scenes are
reflected above the water so that mortals also observe them."
"I've seen 'em," said Cap'n Bill, nodding. "I've seen mirages,
but I never knowed what caused 'em afore now."
"Whenever you see anything you do not understand and wish to ask
questions, I will be very glad to answer them," said the Queen.
"One thing that bothers me," said Trot, "is why we don't get wet,
being in the ocean with water all around us."
"That is because no water really touches you," explained the
Queen. "Your bodies have been made just like those of the mermaids in
order that you may fully enjoy your visit to us. One of our peculiar
qualities is that water is never permitted to quite touch our bodies, or
our gowns. Always there remains a very small space, hardly a hair's
breadth, between us and the water, which is the reason we are always warm
"I see," said Trot. "That's why you don't get soggy or withered."
"Exactly," laughed the Queen, and the other mermaids joined in her
"I s'pose that's how we can breathe without gills," remarked Cap'n
"Yes. The air space is constantly replenished from the water,
which contains air, and this enables us to breathe as freely as you do
upon the earth."
"But we have fins," said Trot, looking at the fin that stood
upright on Cap'n Bill's back.
"Yes. They allow us to guide ourselves as we swim, and so are
very useful," replied the Queen.
"They make us more finished," said Cap'n Bill with a chuckle.
Then, suddenly becoming grave, he added, "How about my rheumatics, ma'am?
Ain't I likely to get stiffened up with all this dampness?"
"No indeed," Aquareine answered. "There is no such thing as
rheumatism in all our dominions. I promise no evil result shall follow
this visit to us, so please be as happy and contented as possible."
Just then Trot happened to look up at the glass roof and saw a
startling sight. A big head with a face surrounded by stubby gray
whiskers was poised just over them, and the head was connected with a
long, curved body that looked much like a sewer pipe. "Oh, there is King
Anko," said the Queen, following the child's gaze. "Open a door and let
him in, Clia, for I suppose our old friend is anxious to see the earth
"Won't he hurt us?" asked the little girl with a shiver of fear.
"Who, Anko? Oh no, my dear! We are very fond of the sea serpent,
who is king of this ocean, although he does not rule the mermaids. Old
Anko is a very agreeable fellow, as you will soon discover."
"Can he talk?" asked Trot.
"And can we understand what he says?"
"Perfectly," replied the Queen. "I have given you power, while
you remain here, to understand the language of every inhabitant of the
"That's nice," said Trot gratefully.
The Princess Clia swam slowly to one of the walls of the throne
room where, at a wave of her hand, a round hole appeared in the coral.
The sea serpent at once observed this opening and the head left the roof
of glass only to reappear presently at the round hole. Through this he
slowly crawled until his head was just beneath the throne of Queen
Aquareine, who said to him, "Good morning, your Majesty. I hope you are
"Quite well, thank your Majesty," answered Anko; and then he
turned to the strangers. "I suppose these are the earth folks you were
"Yes," returned the Queen. "The girl is named Mayre and the man
While the sea serpent looked at the visitors, they ventured to
look at him. He certainly was a queer creature, yet Trot decided he was
not at all frightful. His head was round as a ball, but his ears were
sharp-pointed and had tassels at the ends of them. His nose was flat, and
his mouth very wide indeed, but his eyes were blue and gentle in
expression. The white, stubby hairs that surrounded his face were not
thick like a beard, but scattered and scraggly. From the head, the long,
brown body of the sea serpent extended to the hole in the coral wall,
which was just big enough to admit it; and how much more of the body
remained outside the child could not tell. On the back of the body were
several fins, which made the creature look more like an eel than a
"The girl is young and the man is old," said King Anko in a soft
voice. "But I'm quite sure Cap'n Bill isn't as old as I am."
"How old are you?" asked the sailor.
"I can't say exactly. I can remember several thousands of years
back, but beyond that my memory fails me. How's your memory, Cap'n Bill?"
"You've got me beat," was the reply. "I'll give in that you're
older than I am."
This seemed to please the sea serpent. "Are you well?" he asked.
"Pretty fair," said Cap'n Bill. "How's yourself?"
"Oh, I'm very well, thank you," answered Anko. "I never remember
to have had a pain but three times in my life. The last time was when
Julius Sneezer was on earth."
"You mean Julius Caesar," said Trot, correcting him.
"No, I mean Julius Sneezer," insisted the Sea Serpent. "That was
his real name--Sneezer. They called him Caesar sometimes just because he
took everything he could lay hands on. I ought to know, because I saw him
when he was alive. Did you see him when he was alive, Cap'n Bill?"
"I reckon not," admitted the sailor.
"That time I had a toothache," continued Anko, "but I got a
lobster to pull the tooth with his claw, so the pain was soon over."
"Did it hurt to pull it?" asked Trot.
"Hurt!" exclaimed the Sea Serpent, groaning at the recollection.
"My dear, those creatures have been called lobsters ever since! The
second pain I had way back in the time of Nevercouldnever."
"Oh, I s'pose you mean Nebuchadnezzar," said Trot.
"Do you call him that now?" asked the Sea Serpent as if surprised.
"He used to be called Nevercouldnever when he was alive, but this new way
of spelling seems to get everything mixed up. Nebuchadnezzar doesn't mean
anything at all, it seems to me."
"It means he ate grass," said the child.
"Oh no, he didn't," declared the Sea Serpent. "He was the first
to discover that lettuce was good to eat, and he became very fond of it.
The people may have called it grass, but they were wrong. I ought to
know, because I was alive when Nevercouldnever lived. Were you alive, then?"
"No," said Trot.
"The pain I had then," remarked Anko, "was caused by a kink in my
tail about three hundred feet from the end. There was an old octopus who
did not like me, and so he tied a knot in my tail when I wasn't looking."
"What did you do?" asked Cap'n Bill.
"Well, first I transformed the octopus into a jellyfish, and then
I waited for the tide to turn. When my tail was untied, the pain
"I--I don't understand that," said Trot, somewhat bewildered.
"Thank you, my dear," replied the Sea Serpent in a grateful voice.
"People who are always understood are very common. You are sure to
respect those you can't understand, for you feel that perhaps they know
more than you do."
"About how long do you happen to be?" inquired Cap'n Bill.
"When last measured, I was seven thousand four hundred and
eighty-two feet, five inches and a quarter. I'm not sure about the
quarter, but the rest is probably correct. Adam measured me when Cain was
"Where's the rest of you, then?" asked Trot.
"Safe at home, I hope, and coiled up in my parlor," answered the
Sea Serpent. "When I go out, I usually take along only what is needed. It
saves a lot of bother and I can always find my way back in the darkest
night by just coiling up the part that has been away."
"Do you like to be a sea serpent?" inquired the child.
"Yes, for I'm King of my Ocean, and there is no other sea serpent
to imagine he is just as good as I am. I have two brothers who live in
other oceans, but one is seven inches shorter than I am, and the other
several feet shorter. It's curious to talk about feet when we haven't
any feet, isn't it?"
"Seems so," acknowledged Trot.
"I feel I have much to be proud of," continued Anko in a dreamy
tone. "My great age, my undisputed sway, and my exceptional length."
"I don't b'lieve I'd care to live so long," remarked Cap'n Bill
"So long as seven thousand four hundred and eighty-two feet, five
inches and a quarter?" asked the Sea Serpent.
"No, I mean so many years," replied the sailor.
"But what can one do if one happens to be a sea serpent?" Anko
inquired. "There is nothing in the sea that can hurt me, and I cannot
commit suicide because we have no carbolic acid or firearms or gas to turn
on. So it isn't a matter of choice, and I'd about as soon be alive as
dead. It does not seem quite so monotonous, you know. But I guess I've
stayed about long enough, so I'll go home to dinner. Come and see me when
you have time."
"Thank you," said Trot, and Merla added, "I'll take you over to
his majesty's palace when we go out and let you see how he lives."
"Yes, do," said Anko. And then he slowly slid out of the hole,
which immediately closed behind him, leaving the coral wall as solid as
"Oh!" exclaimed Trot. "King Anko forgot to tell us what his third
pain was about."
"So he did," said Cap'n Bill. "We must ask him about that when we
see him. But I guess the ol' boy's mem'ry is failin', an' he can't be
depended on for pertic'lars."
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
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,
"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
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 flowers.
"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
"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
"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 the
"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 the water.
"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 paused.
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 flowers.
"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
So Trot and Cap'n Bill listened, and this is what the barnacles sang:
"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
"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;
Goliath tussels (sic--tussles?)
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
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 meet."
"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 darted away.
"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
"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 sorry."
"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."
The three swam slowly along, quite enjoying the cool depths of the
water. Every little while they met with some strange creature--or one
that seemed strange to the earth people--for although Trot and Cap'n Bill
had seen many kinds of fish, after they had been caught and pulled from
the water, that was very different from meeting them in their own element,
"face to face," as Trot expressed it. Now that the various fishes were
swimming around free and unafraid in their deep-sea home, they were quite
different from the gasping, excited creatures struggling at the end of a
fishline or flopping from a net.
Before long they came upon a group of large fishes lying lazily
near the bottom of the sea. They were a dark color upon their backs and
silver underneath, but not especially pretty to look at. The fishes made
no effort to get out of Merla's way and remained motionless except for the
gentle motion of their fins and gills.
"Here," said the mermaid, pausing, "is the most aristocratic
family of fish in all the sea."
"What are they?" asked the girl.
"Codfish," was the reply. "Their only fault is that they are too
haughty and foolishly proud of their pedigree."
Overhearing this speech, one codfish said to another in a very
dignified tone of voice, "What insolence!"
"Isn't it?" replied the other. "There ought to be a law to
prevent these common mermaids from discussing their superiors."
"My sakes!" said Trot, astonished. "How stuck up they are, aren't
For a moment the group of fishes stared at her solemnly. Then one
of the remarked in a disdainful manner, "Come, my dear, let us leave these
"I'm not as vulgar as you are!" exclaimed Trot, much offended by
this speech. "Where I come from, we only eat codfish when there's nothing
else in the house to eat."
"How absurd!" observed one of the creatures arrogantly.
"Eat codfish indeed!" said another in a lofty manner.
"Yes, and you're pretty salty, too, I can tell you. At home
you're nothing but a pick-up!" said Trot.
"Dear me!" exclaimed the first fish who had spoken. "Must we
stand this insulting language--and from a person to whom we have never
"I don't need no interduction," replied the girl. "I've eaten you,
and you always make me thirsty."
Merla laughed merrily at this, and the codfish said, with much
dignity, "Come, fellow aristocrats, let us go."
"Never mind, we're going ourselves," announced Merla, and followed
by her guests the pretty mermaid swam away.
"I've heard tell of codfish aristocracy," said Cap'n Bill, "but I
never knowed 'zac'ly what it meant afore."
"They jus' made me mad with all their airs," observed Trot, "so I
gave 'em a piece of my mind."
"You surely did, mate," said the sailor, "but I ain't sure they
understand what they're like when they're salted an' hung up in the
pantry. Folks gener'ly gets stuck-up 'cause they don't know theirselves
like other folks knows 'em."
"We are near Crabville now," declared Merla. "Shall we visit the
crabs and see what they are doing?"
"Yes, let's," replied Trot. "The crabs are lots of fun. I've
often caught them among the rocks on the shore and laughed at the way they
act. Wasn't it funny at dinnertime to see the way they slid around with
"Those were not crabs, but lobsters and crawfish," remarked the
mermaid. "They are very intelligent creatures, and by making them serve
us we save ourselves much household work. Of course, they are awkward and
provoke us sometimes, but no servants are perfect, it is said, so we get
along with ours as well as we can."
"They're all right," protested the child, "even if they did tip
things over once in a while. But it is easy to work in a sea palace, I'm
sure, because there's no dusting or sweeping to be done."
"Or scrubbin'," added Cap'n Bill.
"The crabs," said Merla, "are second cousins to the lobsters,
although much smaller in size. There are many families or varieties of
crabs, and so many of them live in one place near here that we call it
Crabville. I think you will enjoy seeing these little creatures in their native haunts."
They now approached a kelp bed, the straight, thin stems of the
kelp running far upward to the surface of the water. Here and there upon
the stalks were leaves, but Trot thought the growing kelp looked much like
sticks of macaroni, except they were a rich red-brown color. It was
beyond the kelp--which they had to push aside as they swam through, so
thickly did it grow--that they came to a higher level, a sort of plateau
on the ocean's bottom. It was covered with scattered rocks of all sizes,
which appeared to have broken off from big shelving rocks they observed
nearby. The place they entered seemed like one of the rocky canyons you
often see upon the earth.
"Here live the fiddler crabs," said Merla, "but we must have taken
them by surprise, it is so quiet."
Even as she spoke, there was a stirring and scrambling among the
rocks, and soon scores of light-green crabs were gathered before the
visitors. The crabs bore fiddles of all sorts and shapes in their claws,
and one big fellow carried a leader's baton. The latter crab climbed upon
a flat rock and in an excited voice called out, "Ready, now--ready, good
fiddlers. We'll play Number 19, Hail to the Mermaids. Ready! Take aim!
At this command every crab began scraping at his fiddle as hard as
he could, and the sounds were so shrill and unmusical that Trot wondered
when they would begin to play a tune. But they never did; it was one
regular mix-up of sounds from beginning to end. When the noise finally
stopped, the leader turned to his visitors and, waving his baton toward
them, asked, "Well, what did you think of that?"
"Not much," said Trot honestly. "What's it all about?"
"I composed it myself!" said the Fiddler Crab. "But it's highly
classical, I admit. All really great music is an acquired taste."
"I don't like it," remarked Cap'n Bill. "It might do all right to
stir up a racket New Year's Eve, but to call that screechin' music--"
Just then the crabs started fiddling again, harder than ever, and
as it promised to be a long performance, they left the little creatures
scraping away at their fiddles as if for dear life and swam along the
rocky canyon until, on turning a corner, they came upon a new and
There were crabs here, too, many of them, and they were performing
the queerest antics imaginable. Some were building themselves into a
pyramid, each standing on edge, with the biggest and strongest ones at the
bottom. When the crabs were five or six rows high, they would all tumble
over, still clinging to one another and, having reached the ground, they
would separate and commence to build the pyramid over again. Others were
chasing one another around in a circle, always moving backward or
sidewise,and trying to play "leapfrog" as they went. Still others were
swinging on slight branches of seaweed or turning cartwheels or indulging
in similar antics.
Merla and the earth people watched the busy little creatures for
some time before they were themselves observed, but finally Trot gave a
laugh when one crab fell on its back and began frantically waving its legs
to get right-side-up again. At the sound of her laughter they all stopped
their play and came toward the visitors in a flock, looking up at them
with their bright eyes in a most comical way.
"Welcome home!" cried one as he turned a back somersault and
knocked another crab over.
"What's the difference between a mermaid and a tadpole?" asked
another in a loud voice, and without a pause continued, "Why, one drops
its tail and the other holds onto it. Ha, ha! Ho, ho! Hee, hee!"
"These," said Merla, "are the clown crabs. They are very silly
things, as you may already have discovered, but for a short time they are
rather amusing. One tires of them very soon."
"They're funny," said Trot, laughing again. "It's almost as good
as a circus. I don't think they would make me tired, but then I'm not a
The clown crabs had now formed a row in front of them. "Mr.
Johnsing," asked one, "why is a mermaid like an automobile?"
"I don't know, Tommy Blimken," answered a big crab in the middle
of the row. "WHY do you think a mermaid is like an automobile?"
"Because they both get tired," said Tommy Blimken. Then all the
crabs laughed, and Tommy seemed to laugh louder than the rest.
"How do the crabs in the sea know anything 'bout automobiles?"
"Why, Tommy Blimken and Harry Hustle were both captured once by
humans and put in an aquarium," answered the mermaid. "But one day they
climbed out and escaped, finally making their way back to the sea and home
again. So they are quite traveled, you see, and great favorites among the
crabs. While they were on land they saw a great many curious things, and
so I suppose they saw automobiles."
"We did, we did!" cried Harry Hustle, an awkward crab with one big
claw and one little one. "And we saw earth people with legs, awfully
funny they were; and animals called horses, with legs; and other creatures
with legs; and the people cover themselves with the queerest things--they
even wear feathers and flowers on their heads, and--"
"Oh, we know all about that," said Trot. "We live on the earth
"Well, you're lucky to get off from it and into the good water,"
said the Crab. "I nearly died on the earth; it was so stupid, dry and
airy. But the circus was great. They held the performance right in front
of the aquarium where we lived, and Tommy and I learned all the tricks of
the tumblers. Hi! Come on, fellows, and show the earth people what you
At this the crabs began performing their antics again, but they
did the same things over and over, so Cap'n Bill and Trot soon tired, as
Merla said they would, and decided they had seen enough of the crab
circus. So they proceeded to swim farther up the rocky canyon, and near
its upper end they came to a lot of conch shells lying upon the sandy
bottom. A funny-looking crab was sticking his head out from each of these
"These are the hermit crabs," said one of the mermaids. "They
steal these shells and live in them so no enemies can attack them."
"Don't they get lonesome?" asked Trot.
"Perhaps so, my dear. But they do not seem to mind being
lonesome. They are great cowards, and think if they can but protect their
lives there is nothing else to care for. Unlike the jolly crabs we have
just left, the hermits are cross and unsociable."
"Oh, keep quiet and go away!" said one of the hermit crabs in a
grumpy voice. "No one wants mermaids around here." Then every crab
withdrew its head into its shell, and our friends saw them no more.
"They're not very polite," observed Trot, following the mermaid as
Merla swam upward into the middle water.
"I know now why cross people are called 'crabbed,'" said Cap'n
Bill. "They've got dispositions jes' like these 'ere hermit crabs."
Presently they came upon a small flock of mackerel, and noticed
that the fishes seemed much excited. When they saw the mermaid, they
cried out, "Oh, Merla! What do you think? Our Flippity has just gone to
"When?" asked the mermaid.
"Just now," one replied. "We were lying in the water, talking
quietly together when a spinning, shining thing came along and our dear
Flippity ate it. Then he went shooting up to the top of the water and
gave a flop and--went to glory! Isn't it splendid, Merla?"
"Poor Flippity!" sighed the mermaid. "I'm sorry, for he was the
prettiest and nicest mackerel in your whole flock."
"What does it mean?" asked Trot. "How did Flippity go to glory?"
"Why, he was caught by a hook and pulled out of the water into
some boat," Merla explained. "But these poor stupid creatures do not
understand that, and when one of them is jerked out of the water and
disappears, they have the idea he has gone to glory, which means to them
some unknown but beautiful sea."
"I've often wondered," said Trot, "why fishes are foolish enough
to bite on hooks."
"They must know enough to know they're hooks," added Cap'n Bill
"Oh, they do," replied Merla. "I've seen fishes gather around a
hook and look at it carefully for a long time. They all know it is a hook
and that if they bite the bait upon it they will be pulled out of the
water. But they are curious to know what will happen to them afterward,
and think it means happiness instead of death. So finally one takes the
hook and disappears, and the others never know what becomes of him."
"Why don't you tell 'em the truth?" asked Trot.
"Oh, we do. The mermaids have warned them many times, but it does
no good at all. The fish are stupid creatures."
"But I wish I was Flippity," said one of the mackerel, staring at
Trot with his big, round eyes. "He went to glory before I could eat the
"You're lucky," answered the child. "Flippity will be fried in a
pan for someone's dinner. You wouldn't like that, would you?"
"Flippity has gone to glory!" said another, and then they swam
away in haste to tell the news to all they met.
"I never heard of anything so foolish," remarked Trot as she swam
slowly on through the clear, blue water.
"Yes, it is very foolish and very sad," answered Merla. "But if
the fish were wise, men could not catch them for food, and many poor
people on your earth make their living by fishing."
"It seems wicked to catch such pretty things," said the child.
"I do not think so," Merla replied laughingly, "for they were born
to become food for someone, and men are not the only ones that eat fishes.
Many creatures of the sea feed upon them. They even eat one another at
times. And if none was ever destroyed, they would soon become so numerous
that they would clog the waters of the ocean and leave no room for the
rest of us. So after all, perhaps it is just as well they are thoughtless
Presently they came to some round balls that looked much like
balloons in shape and were gaily colored. They floated quietly in the
water, and Trot inquired what they were.
"Balloonfish," answered Merla. "They are helpless creatures, but
have little spikes all over them so their enemies dare not bite them for
fear of getting pricked."
Trot found the balloonfish quite interesting. They had little
dots of eyes and dots for mouths, but she could see no noses, and their
fins and tails were very small.
"They catch these fish in the South Sea Islands and make lanterns
of 'em," said Cap'n Bill. "They first skin 'em and sew the skin up again
to let it dry, and then they put candles inside, and the light shines
through the dried skin."
Many other curious sights they saw in the ocean that afternoon,
and both Cap'n Bill and Trot thoroughly enjoyed their glimpse of sea life.
At last Merla said it was time to return to the palace, from which she
claimed they had not at any time been very far distant. "We must prepare
for dinner, as it will soon begin to grow dark in the water," continued
their conductor. So they swam leisurely back to the groves that
surrounded the palaces, and as they entered the gardens the sun sank, and
deep shadows began to form in the ocean depths.
The palaces of the mermaids were all aglow with lights as they
approached them, and Trot was amazed at the sight. "Where do the lamps
come from?" she asked their guide wonderingly.
"They are not lamps, my dear," replied Merla, much amused at this
suggestion. "We use electric lights in our palaces and have done so for
thousands of years, long before the earth people knew of electric lights."
"But where do you get 'em?" inquired Cap'n Bill, who was as much
astonished as the girl.
"From a transparent jellyfish which naturally emits a strong and
beautiful electric light," was the answer. "We have many hundreds of them
in our palaces, as you will presently see."
Their way was now lighted by small, phosphorescent creatures
scattered about the sea gardens and which Merla informed them were
hyalaea, or sea glowworms. But their light was dim when compared to that
of the electric jellyfish, which they found placed in clusters upon the
ceilings of all the rooms of the palaces, rendering them light as day.
Trot watched these curious creatures with delight, for delicately colored
lights ran around their bodies in every direction in a continuous stream,
shedding splendid rays throughout the vast halls.
A group of mermaids met the visitors in the hall of the main
palace and told Merla the queen had instructed them to show the guests to
their rooms as soon as they arrived. So Trot followed two of them through
several passages, after which they swam upward and entered a circular
opening. There were no stairs here, because there was no need of them,
and the little girl soon found herself in an upper room that was very
All the walls were covered with iridescent shells, polished till
they resembled mother-of-pearl, and upon the glass ceiling were clusters
of the brilliant electric jellyfish, rendering the room bright and
cheerful with their radiance. In one corner stood a couch of white coral,
with gossamer draperies hanging around it from the four high posts. Upon
examining it, the child found the couch was covered with soft, amber
sponges, which rendered it very comfortable to lie upon. In a wardrobe she
found several beautiful gossamer gowns richly embroidered in colored
seaweeds, and these Mayre was told she might wear while she remained the
guest of the mermaids. She also found a toilet table with brushes, combs
and other conveniences, all of which were made of polished tortoise-shell.
Really, the room was more dainty and comfortable than one might
suppose possible in a palace far beneath the surface of the sea, and Trot
was greatly delighted with her new quarters. The mermaid attendants
assisted the child to dress herself in one of the prettiest robes, which
she found to be quite dry and fitted her comfortably. Then the sea-maids
brushed and dressed her hair, and tied it with ribbons of cherry-red
seaweed. Finally they placed around her neck a string of pearls that
would have been priceless upon the earth, and now the little girl
announced she was ready for supper and had a good appetite.
Cap'n Bill had been given a similar room near Trot, but the old
sailor refused to change his clothes for any others offered him, for which
reason he was ready for supper long before his comrade. "What bothers me,
mate," he said to the little girl as they swam toward the great banquet
hall where Queen Aquareine awaited them, "is why ain't we crushed by the
pressin' of the water agin us, bein' as we're down here in the deep sea."
"How's that, Cap'n? Why should we be crushed?" she asked.
"Why, ev'r'body knows that the deeper you go in the sea,, the more
the water presses agin you," he explained. "Even the divers in their
steel jackets can't stand it very deep down. An' here we be, miles from
the top o' the water, I s'pect, an' we don't feel crowded a bit."
"I know why," answered the child wisely. "The water don't touch
us, you see. If it did, it might crush us, but it don't. It's always
held a little way off from our bodies by the magic of the fairy mermaids."
"True enough, Trot," declared the sailor man. "What an idjut I
was not to think o' that myself!"
In the royal banquet hall were assembled many of the mermaids,
headed by the lovely queen, and as soon as their earth guests arrived,
Aquareine ordered the meal to be served. The lobsters again waited upon
the table, wearing little white caps and aprons which made them look very
funny; but Trot was so hungry after her afternoon's excursion that she did
not pay as much attention to the lobsters as she did to her supper, which
was very delicious and consisted of many courses. A lobster spilled some
soup on Cap'n Bill's bald head and made him yell for a minute, because it
was hot and he had not expected it, but the queen apologized very sweetly
for the awkwardness of her servants, and the sailor soon forgot all about
the incident in his enjoyment of the meal.
After the feast ended, they all went to the big reception room,
where some of the mermaids played upon harps while others sang pretty
songs. They danced together, too--a graceful, swimming dance, so queer to
the little girl that it interested and amused her greatly. Cap'n Bill
seemed a bit bashful among so many beautiful mermaids, yet he was pleased
when the queen offered him a place beside her throne, where he could see
and hear all the delightful entertainment provided for the royal guests.
He did not talk much, being a man of few words except when alone with
Trot, but his light-blue eyes were big and round with wonder at the sights
Trot and the sailor man went to bed early and slept soundly upon
their sponge-covered couches. The little girl never wakened until long
after the sun was shining down through the glass roof of her room, and
when she opened her eyes she was startled to find a number of big, small
and middle-sized fishes staring at her through the glass. "That's one bad
thing 'bout this mermaid palace," she said to herself. "It's too public.
Ever'thing in the sea can look at you through the glass as much as it
likes. I wouldn't mind fishes looking at me if they hadn't such big eyes,
an'--goodness me! There's a monster that's all head! And there goes a
fish with a sail on its back, an' here's old Mummercubble, I'm sure, for
he's got a head just like a pig."
She might have watched the fishes on the roof for hours, had she
not remembered it was late and breakfast must be ready. So she dressed
and made her toilet, and swam down into the palace to find Cap'n Bill and
the mermaids politely waiting for her to join them. The sea maidens were
as fresh and lovely as ever, while each and all proved sweet tempered and
merry, even at the breakfast table--and that is where people are cross, if
they ever are. During the meal the queen said, "I shall take you this
morning to the most interesting part of the ocean, where the largest and
most remarkable sea creatures live. And we must visit King Anko, too, for
the sea serpent would feel hurt and slighted if I did not bring my guests
to call upon him."
"That will be nice," said Trot eagerly.
But Cap'n Bill asked, "Is there any danger, ma'am?"
"I think not," replied Queen Aquareine. "I cannot say that you
will be exposed to any danger at all, so long as I'm with you. But we are
going into the neighborhood of such fierce and even terrible beings which
would attack you at once did they suspect you to be earth people. So in
order to guard your safety, I intend to draw the Magic Circle around both
of you before we start."
"What is the Magic Circle?" asked Trot.
"A fairy charm that prevents any enemy from touching you. No
monster of the sea, however powerful, will be able to reach your body
while you are protected by the Magic Circle," declared the Queen.
"Oh, then I'll not be a bit afraid," returned the child with
"Am I to have the Magic Circle drawn around me, too?" asked Cap'n
"Of course," answered Aquareine. "You will need no other
protection than that, yet both Princess Clia and I will both be with you.
For today I shall leave Merla to rule our palaces in my place until we
No sooner was breakfast finished than Trot was anxious to start.
The girl was also curious to discover what the powerful Magic Circle might
prove to be, but she was a little disappointed in the ceremony. The queen
merely grasped her fairy wand in her right hand and swam around the child
in a circle, from left to right. Then she took her wand in her left hand
and swam around Trot in another circle, from right to left. "Now, my
dear," said she, "you are safe from any creature we are liable to meet."
She performed the same ceremony for Cap'n Bill, who was doubtful
about the Magic Circle because he felt the same after it as he had before.
But he said nothing of his unbelief, and soon they left the palace and
started upon their journey.
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 they 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 passed.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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.
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 the
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
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
"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
"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 companions.
"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 Cave. 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
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
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.
"The sun must be going under a cloud," said Trot, looking ahead.
They had descended far into the ocean depths again--further, the girl
thought, than they had ever been before.
"No," the Queen answered after a glance ahead of them, "that is a
cuttlefish, and he is dyeing the sea around him with ink so that he can
hide from us. Let us turn a little to the left, for we could see nothing
at all in that inky water."
Following her advice, they made a broad curve to the left, and at
once the water began to darken in that direction. "Why, there's another
of 'em," said Cap'n Bill as the little party came to a sudden halt.
"So there is," returned the Queen, and Trot thought there was a
little quiver of anxiety in her voice. "We must go far to the right to
escape the ink."
So they again started, this time almost at a right angle to their
former course, the little girl inquired, "How can the cuttlefish color the
water so very black?"
"They carry big sacks in front of them where they conceal the
ink," Princess Clia answered. "Whenever they choose, the cuttlefish are
able to press out this ink, and it colors the water for a great space
The direction in which they were now swimming was taking them far
out of their way. Aquareine did not wish to travel very far to the right,
so when she thought they had gone far enough to escape the inky water, she
turned to lead her party toward the left, the direction in which she DID
wish to go. At once another cloud of ink stained the water and drove them
to the right again.
"Is anything wrong, ma'am?" asked Cap'n Bill, seeing a frown
gather upon the queen's lovely face.
"I hope not," she said. "But I must warn you that these
cuttlefish are the servants of the terrible sea devils, and from the way
they are acting they seem determined to drive us toward the Devil Caves,
which I wished to avoid."
This admission on the part of their powerful protector, the fairy
mermaid, sent a chill to the hearts of the earth people. Neither spoke
for a time, but finally Cap'n Bill asked in a timid voice, "Hadn't we
better go back, ma'am?"
"Yes," decided Aquareine after a moment's thought. "I think it
will be wise to retreat. The sea devils are evidently aware of our
movements and wish to annoy us. For my part, I have no fear of them, but
I do not care to have you meet such creatures."
But when they turned around to abandon their journey, another inky
cloud was to be seen behind them. They really had no choice but to swim
in the only streak of clear water they could find, and the mermaids well
knew this would lead them nearer and nearer to the caves of their enemies.
But Aquareine led the way, moving very slowly, and the others followed
her. In every other direction they were hemmed in by the black waters,
and they did not dare to halt, because the inky fluid crept swiftly up
behind them and drove them on. The queen and the princess had now become
silent and grave. They swam on either side of their guests as if to
better protect them. "Don't look up," whispered Clia, pressing close to
the little girl's side.
"Why not?" asked Trot, and then she did exactly what she had been
told not to do. She lifted her head and saw stretched over them a network
of scrawny, crimson arms interlaced like the branches of trees in winter
when the leaves have fallen and left them bare.
Cap'n Bill gave a start and muttered "Land sakes!" for he, too,
had gazed upward and seen the crimson network of limbs.
"Are these the sea devils?" asked the child, more curious than
"Yes, dear," replied the Queen. "But I advise you to pay no
attention to them. Remember, they cannot touch us." In order to avoid
the threatening arms overhead, which followed them as they swam, our
friends kept near to the bottom of the sea, which was here thickly covered
with rough and jagged rocks. The inky water had now been left far behind,
but when Trot looked over her shoulder, she shuddered to find a great
crimson monster following closely after them, with a dozen long, snaky
feelers stretched out as if to grab anyone that lagged behind. And there,
at the side of Princess Clia, was another devil, leering silently with his
cruel, bulging eyes at the pretty mermaid. Beside the queen swam still
another of their enemies. Indeed, the sea devils had crept upon them and
surrounded them everywhere except at the front, and Trot began to feel
nervous and worried for the first time.
Cap'n Bill kept mumbling queer words under his breath, for he had
a way of talking to himself when anything "upsot him," as he would
quaintly remark. Trot always knew he was disturbed or in trouble when he
began to "growl." The only way now open was straight ahead. They swam
slowly, yet fast enough to keep a safe distance from the dreadful creature
"I'm afraid they are driving us into a trap," whispered the Queen
softly. "But whatever happens, do not lose courage, earth friends. Clia
and I are here to protect you, and our fairy powers are sufficient to keep
you from all harm."
"Oh, I don't mind so very much," declared Trot calmly. "It's like
the fairy adventures in storybooks, and I've often thought I'd like that
kind of adventures, 'cause the story always turns out the right way."
Cap'n Bill growled something just then, but the only words Trot
could make out were, "never lived to tell the tale."
"Oh, pshaw, Cap'n," she said. "We may be in danger, right enough,
an' to be honest, I don't like the looks of these sea devils at all. But
I'm sure it's no KILLING matter, for we've got the fairy circles all
"Ha ha!" laughed the monster beside her. "WE know all about the
fairy circles, don't we, Migg?"
"Ho ho!" laughed the monster on the other side. "We do, Slibb, my
boy, and we don't think much of fairy circles, either!"
"They have foiled our enemies many a time," declared the Princess
with much dignity.
"Ha ha!" laughed one. "That's why we're here now."
"Ho ho!" laughed the other. "We've learned a trick or two, and
we've got you fast this time."
Then all the sea devils--those above and the one behind, and the
two on the sides--laughed all together, and their laughter was so horrible
that it made even Trot shudder. But now the queen stopped short, and the
others stopped with her. "I will go no farther," she said firmly, not
caring if the monsters overheard her. "It is evident that these monsters
are trying to drive us into some secret place, and it is well known that
they are in league with Zog the Terrible, whom they serve because they are
as wicked as he is. We must be somewhere near the hidden castle of Zog,
so I prefer to stay here rather than be driven into some place far more
dangerous. As for the sea devils, they are powerless to injure us in any
way. Not one of those thousand arms about us can possibly touch our
The only reply to this defiant speech was another burst of
horrible laughter; and now there suddenly appeared before them still
another of the monsters, which thus completely hemmed them in. Then the
creatures began interlacing their long arms, or "feelers," until they
formed a perfect cage around the prisoners, not an opening being left that
was large enough for one of them to escape through. The mermaids and the
girl and sailor man kept huddled close together, for although they might
be walled in by the sea devils, their captors could not touch them because
of the protecting magic circles.
All at once Trot exclaimed, "Why, we must be moving!" This was
startling news, but by watching the flow of water past them they saw that
the little girl was right. The sea devils were swimming, all together,
and as the cage they were in moved forward, our friends were carried with
it. Queen Aquareine had a stern look upon her beautiful face. Cap'n Bill
guessed from this look that the mermaid was angry, for it seemed much like
the look Trot's mother wore when they came home late to dinner. But
however angry the queen might be, she was unable to help herself or her
guests just now or to escape from the guidance of the dreaded sea devils.
The rest of the party had become sober and thoughtful, and in dignified
silence they awaited the outcome of this strange adventure.
All at once it grew dark around them. Neither Cap'n Bill nor Trot
liked this gloom, for it made them nervous not to be able to see their
enemies. "We must be near a sea cavern, if not within one," whispered
Princess Clia, and even as she spoke the network of scarlet arms parted
before them, leaving an avenue for them to swim out of the cage.
There was brighter water ahead, too, so the queen said without
hesitation, "Come along, dear friends, but let us clasp hands and keep
They obeyed her commands and swam swiftly out of their prison and
into the clear water before them, glad to put a distance between
themselves and the loathesome sea devils. The monsters made no attempt to
follow them, but they burst into a chorus of harsh laughter which warned
our friends that they had not yet accomplished their escape. The four now
found themselves in a broad, rocky passage, which was dimly lighted from
some unknown source. The walls overhead, below them and at the sides all
glistened as if made of silver, and in places were set small statues of
birds, beasts and fishes, occupying niches in the walls and seemingly made
from the same glistening material. The queen swam more slowly now that
the sea devils had been left behind, and she looked exceedingly grave and
"Have you ever been here before?" asked Trot.
"No, dear," said the Queen with a sigh.
"And do you know where we are?" continued the girl.
"I can guess," replied Aquareine. "There is only one place in all
the sea where such a passage as that we are in could exist without my
knowledge, and that is in the hidden dominions of Zog. If we are indeed
in the power of that fearful magician, we must summon all our courage to
resist him, or we are lost!"
"Is Zog more powerful than the mermaids?" asked Trot anxiously.
"I do not know, for we have never before met to measure our
strength," answered Aquareine. "But if King Anko could defeat the
magician, as he surely did, then I think I shall be able to do so."
"I wish I was sure of it," muttered Cap'n Bill.
Absolute silence reigned in the silver passage. No fish were
there; not even a sea flower grew to relieve the stern grandeur of this
vast corridor. Trot began to be impressed with the fact that she was a
good way from her home and mother, and she wondered if she would ever get
back again to the white cottage on the cliff. Here she was, at the bottom
of the great ocean, swimming through a big tunnel that had an enchanted
castle at the end, and a group of horrible sea devils at the other! In
spite of this thought, she was not very much afraid. Although two fairy
mermaids were her companions, she relied, strange to say, more upon her
tried and true friend, Cap'n Bill, than upon her newer acquaintances to
see her safely out of her present trouble. Cap'n Bill himself did not feel
"I don't care two cents what becomes o' me," he told Princess Clia
in a low voice, "but I'm drea'ful worried over our Trot. She's too sweet
an' young to be made an end of in this 'ere fashion."
Clia smiled at this speech. "I'm sure you will find the little
girl's end a good way off," she replied. "Trust to our powerful queen,
and be sure she will find some means for us all to escape uninjured."
The light grew brighter as they advanced, until finally they
perceived a magnificent archway just ahead of them. Aquareine hesitated a
moment whether to go on or turn back, but there was no escaping the sea
devils behind them, and she decided the best way out of their difficulties
was to bravely face the unknown Zog and rely upon her fairy powers to
prevent his doing any mischief to herself or her friends. So she led the
way, and together they approached the archway and passed through it.
They now found themselves in a vast cavern, so great in extent
that the dome overhead looked like the sky when seen from earth. In the
center of this immense sea cavern rose the towers of a splendid castle,
all built of coral inlaid with silver and having windows of clear glass.
Surrounding the castle were beds of beautiful sea flowers, many being in
full bloom, and these were laid out with great care in artistic designs.
Goldfish and silverfish darted here and there among the foliage, and the
whole scene was so pretty and peaceful that Trot began to doubt there was
any danger lurking in such a lovely place.
As they approached to look around them, a brilliantly colored
gregfish approached and gazed at them curiously with his big, saucer-like
eyes. "So Zog has got you at last!" he said in a pitying tone. "How
foolish you were to swim into that part of the sea where he is powerful."
"The sea devils made us," explained Clia.
"Well, I'm sorry for you, I'm sure," remarked the Greg, and with a
flash of his tail, he disappeared among the sea foliage.
"Let us go to the castle," said the Queen in a determined voice.
"We may as well boldly defy our fate as to wait until Zog seeks us out."
So they swam to the entrance of the castle. The doors stood wide open,
and the interior seemed as well lighted as the cavern itself, although
none of them could discover from whence the light came. At each side of
the entrance lay a fish such as they had never seen before. It was flat
as a doormat and seemed to cling fast to the coral floor. Upon its back
were quills like those of a porcupine, all pointed and sharp. From the
center of the fish arose a head shaped like a round ball, with a circle of
piercing, bead-like eyes set in it. These strange guardians of the
entrance might be able to tell what their numerous eyes saw, yet they
remained silent and watchful. Even Aquareine gazed upon them curiously,
and she gave a little shudder as she did so.
Inside the entrance was a domed hall with a flight of stairs
leading to an upper balcony. Around the hall were several doorways hung
with curtains made of woven seaweeds. Chairs and benches stood against
the wall, and these astonished the visitors because neither stairs nor
chairs seemed useful in a kingdom where every living thing was supposed to
swim and have a fish's tail. In Queen Aquareine's palaces benches for
reclining were used, and stairs were wholly unnecessary, but in the Palace
of Zog the furniture and fittings were much like those of a house upon
earth, and except that every space here was filled with water instead of
air, Trot and Cap'n Bill might have imagined themselves in a handsome
The little group paused half fearfully in the hall, yet so far
there was surely nothing to be afraid of. They were wondering what to do
next when the curtains of an archway were pushed aside and a boy entered.
To Trot's astonishment, he had legs and walked upon them naturally and
with perfect ease. He was a delicate, frail-looking little fellow,
dressed in a black velvet suit with knee breeches. The bows at his throat
and knees were of colored seaweeds, woven into broad ribbons. His hair
was yellow and banged across his forehead. His eyes were large and dark,
with a pleasant, merry sparkle in them. Around his neck he wore a high
ruff, but in spite of this Trot could see that below his plump cheeks were
several scarlet-edged slits that looked like the gills of fishes, for they
gently opened and closed as the boy breathed in the water by which he was
surrounded. These gills did not greatly mar the lad's delicate beauty,
and he spread out his arms and bowed low and gracefully in greeting.
"Hello," said Trot.
"Why, I'd like to," replied the boy with a laugh, "but being a
mere slave, it isn't proper for me to hello. But it's good to see earth
people again, and I'm glad you're here."
"We're not glad," observed the girl. "We're afraid."
"You'll get over that," declared the boy smilingly. "People lose
a lot of time being afraid. Once I was myself afraid, but I found it was
no fun, so I gave it up."
"Why were we brought here?" inquired Queen Aquareine gently.
"I can't say, madam, being a mere slave," replied the boy. "But
you have reminded me of my errand. I am sent to inform you all that Zog
the Forsaken, who hates all the world and is hated by all the world,
commands your presence in his den."
"Do you hate Zog, too?" asked Trot.
"Oh no," answered the boy. "People lose a lot of time in hating
others, and there's no fun in it at all. Zog may be hateful, but I'm not
going to waste time hating him. You may do so, if you like."
"You are a queer child," remarked the Mermaid Queen, looking at
him attentively. "Will you tell us who you are?"
"Once I was Prince Sacho of Sacharhineolaland, which is a sweet
country, but hard to pronounce," he answered. "But in this domain I have
but one title and one name, and that is 'Slave.'"
"How came you to be Zog's slave?" asked Clia.
"The funniest adventure you ever heard of," asserted the boy with
eager pride. "I sailed in a ship that went to pieces in a storm. All on
board were drowned but me, and I came mighty near it, to tell the truth. I
went down deep, deep into the sea, and at the bottom was Zog, watching the
people drown. I tumbled on his head, and he grabbed and saved me, saying
I would make a useful slave. By his magic power he made me able to live
under water as the fishes live, and he brought me to this castle and
taught me to wait upon him as his other slaves do."
"Isn't it a dreadful, lonely life?" asked Trot.
"No indeed," said Sacho. "We haven't any time to be lonely, and
the dreadful things Zog does are very exciting and amusing, I assure you.
He keeps us guessing every minute, and that makes the life here
interesting. Things were getting a bit slow an hour ago, but now that you
are here, I'm in hopes we will all be kept busy and amused for some time."
"Are there many others in the castle besides you and Zog?" asked
"Dozens of us. Perhaps hundreds. I've never counted them," said
the boy. "But Zog is the only master; all the rest of us are in the same
class, so there is no jealousy among the slaves."
"What is Zog like?" Cap'n Bill questioned.
At this the boy laughed, and the laugh was full of mischief. "If
I could tell you what Zog is like, it would take me a year," was the
reply. "But I can't tell you. Every one has a different idea of what
he's like, and soon you will see him yourselves. "
"Are you fond of him?" asked Trot.
"If I said yes, I'd get a good whipping," declared Sacho. "I am
commanded to hate Zog, and being a good servant, I try to obey. If anyone
dared to like Zog, I am sure he'd be instantly fed to the turtles; so I
advise you not to like him."
"Oh, we won't," promised Trot.
"But we're keeping the master waiting, and that is also a
dangerous thing to do," continued the boy. "If we don't hurry up, Zog
will begin to smile, and when he smiles there is trouble brewing."
The queen sighed. "Lead the way, Sacho," she said. "We will
The boy bowed again, and going to an archway, held aside the
curtains for them. They first swam into a small anteroomn which led into
a long corridor, at the end of which was another curtained arch. Through
this Sacho also guided them, and now they found themselves in a cleverly
constructed maze. Every few feet were twists and turns and sharp corners,
and sometimes the passage would be wide, and again so narrow that they
could just squeeze through in single file. "Seems like we're gettin'
further into the trap," growled Cap'n Bill. "We couldn't find our way out
o' here to save our lives."
"Oh yes we could," replied Clia, who was just behind him. "Such a
maze may indeed puzzle you, but the queen or I could lead you safely
through it again, I assure you. Zog is not so clever as he thinks
The sailor, however, found the maze very bewildering, and so did
Trot. Passages ran in every direction, crossing and recrossing, and it
seemed wonderful that the boy Sacho knew just which way to go. But he
never hesitated an instant. Trot looked carefully to see if there were
any marks to guide him, but every wall was of plain, polished marble, and
every turning looked just like all the others. Suddenly Sacho stopped
short. They were now in a broader passage, but as they gathered around
their conductor they found further advance blocked. Solid walls faced
them, and here the corridor seemed to end.
"Enter!" said a clear voice.
"But we can't!" protested Trot.
"Swim straight ahead," whispered the boy in soft tones. "There is
no real barrier before you. Your eyes are merely deceived by magic."
"Ah, I understand," said Aquareine, nodding her pretty head. And
then she took Mayre's hand and swam boldly forward, while Cap'n Bill
followed holding the hand of Clia. And behold! the marble wall melted
away before them, and they found themselves in a chamber more splendid
than even the fairy mermaids had ever seen before.
The room in the enchanted castle which Zog called the "den" and in
which the wicked sea monster passed most of his time was a perfectly
shaped dome of solid gold. The upper part of this dome was thickly set
with precious jewels--diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, which
sparkled beautifully through the crystal water. The lower walls were as
thickly studded with pearls, all being of perfect shape and color. Many
of the pearls were larger than any which may be found upon earth, for the
sea people knew where to find the very best and hide them away where men
cannot discover them.
The golden floor was engraved with designs of rare beauty,
depicting not only sea life, but many adventures upon land. In the room
were several large, golden cabinets, the doors of which were closed and
locked, and in addition to the cabinets there were tables, chairs and
sofas, the latter upholstered with softest sealskins. Handsome rugs of
exquisitely woven seaweeds were scattered about, the colors of which were
artistically blended together. In one corner a fountain of air bubbled up
through the water. The entire room was lighted as brilliantly as if
exposed to the direct rays of the sun, yet where this light came from our
friends could not imagine. No lamp or other similar device was visible
The strangers at first scarcely glanced at all these beautiful
things, for in an easy chair sat Zog himself, more wonderful than any
other living creature, and as they gazed upon him, their eyes seemed
fascinated as if held by a spell. Zog's face was the face of a man,
except that the tops of his ears were pointed like horns and he had small
horns instead of eyebrows and a horn on the end of his chin. In spite of
these deformities, the expression of the face was not unpleasant or
repulsive. His hair was carefully parted and brushed, and his mouth and
nose were not only perfect in shape but quite handsome.
Only the eyes betrayed Zog and made him terrible to all beholders.
They seemed like coals of glowing fire and sparkled so fiercely that no
one ever cared to meet their gaze for more than an instant. Perhaps the
monster realized this, for he usually drooped his long lashes over his
fiery eyes to shut out their glare. Zog had two well-shaped legs which
ended in the hoofs of beasts instead of feet, and these hoofs were shod
with gold. His body was a shapeless mass covered with richly embroidered
rainment, over which a great robe of cloth of gold fell in many folds.
This robe was intended to hide the magician's body from view, but Trot
noticed that the cloth moved constantly in little ripples, as if what lay
underneath would not keep still.
The best features of which Zog could boast were his arms and
hands, the latter being as well formed, as delicate and white as those of
a well-bred woman. When he spoke, his voice sounded sweet and clear, and
its tones were very gentle. He had given them a few moments to stare at
him, for he was examining them in turn with considerable curiosity.
"Well," said he, "do you not find me the most hateful creature you have
The queen refrained from answering, but Trot said promptly, "We
do. Nothing could be more horrider or more disgustin' than you are, it
seems to me."
"Very good, very good indeed," declared the monster, lifting his
lashes to flash his glowing eyes upon them. Then he turned toward Cap'n
Bill. "Man-fish," he continued, "what do YOU think of me?"
"Mighty little," the sailor replied. "You orter be 'shamed to ask
sech a question, knowin' you look worse ner the devil himself."
"Very true," answered Zog, frowning. He felt that he had received
a high compliment, and the frown showed he was pleased with Cap'n Bill.
But now Queen Aquareine advanced to a position in front of their
captor and said, "Tell me, Zog, why have you trapped us and brought us
"To destroy you," was the quick answer, and the magician turned
for an instant to flash his eyes upon the beautiful mermaid. "For two
hundred years I have been awaiting a chance to get within my power some
friend of Anko the Sea Serpent--of Anko, whom I hate!" he added, smiling
sweetly. "When you left your palace today, my swift spies warned me, and
so I sent the sea devils to capture you. Often have they tried to do this
before, but always failed. Today, acting by my command, they tricked you,
and by surrounding you forced you to the entrance of my enchanted castle.
The result is a fine capture of important personages. I have now in my
power the queen and princess of the fairy mermaids, as well as two
wandering earth people, and I assure you I shall take great pleasure in
destroying you utterly."
"You are a coward," declared the Queen proudly. "You dared not
meet us in the open sea."
"No, I dare not leave this castle," Zog admitted, still smiling.
"But here in my own domain my power is supreme. Nothing can interfere
with my vengeance."
"That remains to be seen," said Aquareine, firmly meeting the gaze
of the terrible eyes.
"Of course," he answered, nodding his head with a graceful
movement. "You will try to thwart me and escape. You will pit your fairy
power against my powers of magic. That will give me great pleasure, for
the more you struggle, the greater will be my revenge."
"But why should you seek revenge upon us?" asked Clia. "We have
never harmed you."
"That is true," replied Zog. "I bear you no personal ill will.
But you are friends of my great enemy, King Anko, and it will annoy him
very much when he finds that you have been destroyed by me. I cannot hurt
the rascally old sea serpent himself, but through you I can make him feel
"The mermaids have existed thousands of years," said the Queen in
a tone of pride. "Do you imagine the despised and conquered Zog has power
to destroy them?"
"I do not know," was the quiet answer. "It will be interesting to
discover which is the more powerful."
"I challenge you to begin the test at once, vile magician!"
"There is no hurry, fair Queen," answered Zog in his softest
tones. "I have been so many years in accomplishing your capture that it is
foolish to act hastily now. Besides, I am lonely. Here in my forced
retirement I see only those uninteresting earth mortals whom I have made
my slaves, for all sea dwellers are forbidden to serve me save the sea
devils, and they dare not enter my castle. I have saved many mortals from
drowning and brought them here to people my castle, but I do not love
mortals. Two lovely mermaids are much more interesting, and before I
allow you to perish, I shall have much amusement in witnessing your
despair and your struggles to escape. You are now my prisoners. By slow
degrees I shall wear out your fairy powers and break your hearts, as well
as the hearts of these earth dwellers who have no magic powers, and I
think it will be a long time before I finally permit you to die."
"That's all right," said Trot cheerfully. "The longer you take,
the better I'll be satisfied."
"That's how I feel about it," added Cap'n Bill. "Don't get in a
hurry to kill us Zog. It'll be such a wear an' tear on your nerves. Jes'
take it easy an' let us live as long as we can."
"Don't you care to die?" asked the magician.
"It's a thing I never longed for," the sailor replied. "You see,
we had no business to go on a trip with the mermaids to begin with. I've
allus heard tell that mermaids is dangerous, an' no one as met 'em ever
lived to tell the tale. Eh, Trot?"
"That's what you said, Cap'n Bill."
"So I guess we're done for, one way 'r 'nother, an' it don't
matter much which. But Trot's a good child, an' mighty young an' tender.
It don't seem like her time has come to die. I'd like to have her sent
safe home to her mother. So I've got this 'ere proposition to make, Zog.
If your magic could make ME die twice, or even THREE times fer good
measure, why you go ahead an' do it an' I won't complain. All I ask is
fer you to send this little girl safe back to dry land again."
"Don't you do it, Zog!" cried Trot indignantly, and turning to
Cap'n Bill, she added, "I'm not goin' to leave you down here in all this
mess, Cap'n, and don't you think it. If one of us gets out of the muddle
we're in, we'll both get out, so don't you make any bargains with Zog to die twice."
Zog listened to this conversation very carefully. "The dying does
not amount to much," he said. "It is the thinking about it that hurts you
mortals most. I've watched many a shipwreck at sea, and the people would
howl and scream for hours before the ship broke up. Their terror was very
enjoyable. But when the end came, they all drowned as peacefully as if
they were going to sleep, so it didn't amuse me at all."
"I'm not worrying," said Trot.
"Ner me," said Cap'n Bill. "You'll find we can take what comes
jes' as easy as anybody."
"I do not expect to get much from you poor mortals," said Zog
carelessly. "You are merely a side show to my circus, a sort of dessert
to my feast of vengeance. When the time comes, I can find a hundred ways
to kill you. My most interesting prisoners are these pretty mermaids, who
claim that none of their race has ever yet died or been destroyed. The
first mermaid ever created is living yet, and I am told she is none other
than Queen Aquareine. So I have a pretty problem before me to invent some
way to destroy the mermaids or put them out of existence. And it will
require some thought."
"Also, it will require some power you do not possess," suggested
"That may be," replied Zog softly. "But I am going to experiment,
and I believe I shall be able to cause you a lot of pain and sorrow before
I finally make an end of you. I have not lived twenty-seven thousand
years, Aquareine, without getting a certain amount of wisdom, and I am
more powerful than you suspect."
"You are a monster and a wicked magician," said the Mermaid Queen.
"I am," agreed Zog, "but I cannot help it. I was created part
man, part bird, part fish, part beast and part reptile, and such a
monstrosity could not be otherwise than wicked. Everybody hates me, and I
"Why don't you kill yourself?" asked Trot.
"I've tried that and failed," he answered. "Only one being in the
world has power to destroy me, and that is King Anko, the sea serpent."
"Then you'd better let him do it," advised the little girl.
"No. Much as I long to die, I cannot allow King Anko the pleasure
of killing me. He has always been my worst enemy, and it would be such a
joy to him to kill me that I really cannot allow him. Indeed, I have
always hoped to kill Anko. I have now been three thousand six hundred and
forty-two years, eleven months and nine days figuring out a plan to
destroy old Anko, and as yet I have not discovered a way."
"I'd give it up, if I were you," advised Trot. "Don't you think
you could get some fun out of trying to be good?"
"No!" cried Zog, and his voice was not so soft as before.
"Listen, Aquareine, you and your attendants shall be prisoners in this
castle until I can manage to stop you from living. Rooms will be placed
at your disposal, and I wish you to go to them at once, as I am tired of
looking at you."
"You're no more tired than we are," remarked Trot. "It's lucky
you can't see yourself, Zog."
He turned his glowing eyes full upon her. "The worst of my queer
body I keep concealed," he said. "If ever you see it, you will scream
with terror." He touched a bell beside him, and the girl was surprised to
find how clearly its tones rang out through the water. In an instant the
boy Sacho appeared and bowed low before his dreadful master. "Take the
mermaids and the child to the Rose Chamber," commanded Zog, "and take the
old man-fish to the Peony Room."
Sacho turned to obey. "Are the outer passages well guarded?"
asked the monster.
"Yes, as you have commanded," said the boy.
"Then you may allow the prisoners to roam at will throughout the
castle. Now, go!"
The prisoners followed Sacho from the room, glad to get away. The
presence of this evil being had grown oppressive to them, and Zog had
himself seemed ill at ease during the last few minutes. The robe so
closely wound around his body moved jerkily, as if something beneath
disturbed it, and at such times Zog shifted nervously in his seat.
Sacho's thin little legs trotted through the water and led the way
into a different passage from the one by which they had entered. They
swam slowly after him and breathed easier when they had left the golden
domed chamber where their wicked enemy sat enthroned. "Well, how do you
like him?" asked Sacho with a laugh.
"We hate him!" declared Trot emphatically.
"Of course you do," replied Sacho. "But you're wasting time
hating anything. It doesn't do you any good, or him any harm. Can you
"A little," said Trot, "but I don't feel like singing now."
"You're wrong about that," the boy asserted. "Anything that keeps
you from singing is foolishness, unless it's laughter. Laughter, joy and
song are the only good things in the world."
Trot did not answer this queer speech, for just then they came to
a flight of stairs, and Sacho climbed up them while the others swam. And
now they were in a lofty, broad corridor having many doors hung with
seaweed draperies. At one of these doorways Sacho stopped and said, "Here
is the Rose Chamber where the master commands you to live until you die.
You may wander anywhere in the castle as you please; to leave it is
impossible. Whenever you return to the Rose Chamber, you will know it by
this design of roses sewn in pearls upon the hangings. The Peony Room
where the man-fish is to live is the next one farther on."
"Thank you," replied Queen Aquareine. "Are we to be fed?"
"Meals will be served in your rooms. If you desire anything, ring
the bell and some of the slaves will be sure to answer it. I am mostly in
attendance upon my master, but whenever I am at liberty I will look after
your comfort myself."
Again they thanked the strange boy, and he turned and left them.
They could hear him whistle and sing as he returned along the passage.
Then Princess Clia parted the curtains that her queen and companions might
enter the Rose Chamber.
The rooms Zog had given his prisoners were as handsome as all
other parts of this strange enchanted castle. Gold was used plentifully
in the decorations, and in the Rose Chamber occupied by the mermaids and
Trot golden roses formed a border around the entire room. The sea maidens
had evidently been expected, for the magician had provided couches for
them to recline upon similar to the ones used in the mermaid palaces. The
frames were of mother of pearl and the cushions of soft, white sponges. In
the room were toilet tables, mirrors, ornaments and many articles used by
earth people, which they afterward learned had been plundered by Zog from
sunken ships and brought to his castle by his allies, the sea devils.
While the mermaids were examining and admiring their room, Cap'n
Bill went to the Peony Room to see what it was like and found his quarters
were very cozy and interesting. There were pictures on the wall,
portraits of grave-looking porpoises, bashful seals, and smug and smiling
walruses. Some of the wall panels were formed of mirrors and reflected
clearly the interior of the room. Around the ceiling was a frieze of
imitation peonies in silver, and the furniture was peony-shaped, the broad
leaves being bent to form seats and couches. Beside a pretty dressing
table hung a bell cord with a tassel at the end. Cap'n Bill did not know
it was a bell cord, so he pulled it to see what would happen and was
puzzled to find that nothing seemed to happen at all,the bell being too
far away for him to hear it. Then he began looking at the treasures
contained in this royal apartment, and was much pleased with a golden
statue of a mermaid that resembled Princess Clia in feature. A silver
flower vase upon a stand contained a bouquet of gorgeous peonies, "as
nat'ral as life," said Cap'n Bill, although he saw plainly that they must
be made of metal.
Trot came in just then to see how her dear friend was located.
She entered from the doorway that connected the two rooms and said, "Isn't
it pretty, Cap'n? And who'd ever think that awful creature Zog owned such
a splendid castle and kept his prisoners in such lovely rooms?"
"I once heard tell," said the sailor, "of a foreign people that
sacrificed humans to please their pagan gods, an' before they killed 'em
outright they stuffed the victims full of good things to eat an' dressed
'em in pretty clothes an' treated 'em like princes. That's why I don't
take much comfort in our fine surroundin's, Trot. This Zog is a pagan, if
ever there was one, an' he don't mean us any good, you may depend on 't."
"No," replied Trot soberly, "I'm sure he does not expect us to be
happy here. But I'm going to fool him and have just as good a time as I
As she spoke they both turned around--an easy thing to do with a
single flop of their flexible tails--and Cap'n Bill uttered a cry of
surprise. Just across the room stood a perfect duplicate of himself. The
round head, with its bald top and scraggly whiskers, the sailor cap and
shirt, the wide pantaloons, even the wooden leg, each and every one were
exact copies of those owned by Cap'n Bill. Even the expression in the
light-blue eyes was the same, and it is no wonder the old sailor stared at
his "double" in amazement. But the next minute he laughed and said:
"Why,Trot, it's *me* reflected in a mirror. But at first I
thought it was someone else."
Trot was staring, too. "Look, Cap'n!" she whispered. "Look at
the wooden leg."
"Well, it's MY wooden leg, ain't it?" he inquired.
"If it is, it can't be a reflection in a mirror," she argued,
"for YOU haven't got a wooden leg. You've got a fish's tail."
The old sailor was so startled by this truth that he gave a great
flop with his tail that upset his balance and made him keel a somersault
in the water before he got right side up again. Then he found the other
sailor man laughing at him and was horrified to find the "reflection"
advancing toward them by stumping along on its wooden leg. "Keep away!
Get out, there!" yelled Cap'n Bill. "You're a ghost, the ghost o' me
that once was, an' I can't bear the sight o' you. Git out!"
"Did you ring jes' to tell me to git out?" asked the other in a
"I--I didn't ring," declared Cap'n Bill.
"You did. You pulled that bell cord," said the one-legged
"Oh, did pullin' that thing ring a bell?" inquired the Cap'n, a
little ashamed of his ignorance and reassured by hearing the "ghost" talk.
"It surely did," was the reply, "and Sacho told me to answer your
bell and look after you. So I'm a-lookin' after you."
"I wish you wouldn't," protested Cap'n Bill. I've no use fer--fer
The strange sailor began to chuckle at hearing this, and his
chuckle was just like Cap'n Bill's chuckle, so full of merry humor that
it usually made everyone laugh with him.
"Who are you?" asked Trot, who was very curious and much surprised.
"I'm Cap'n Joe," was the reply. "Cap'n Joe Weedles, formerly o'
the brig 'Gladsome' an' now a slave o' Zog at the bottom o' the sea."
"J--J--Joe Wee-Weedles!" gasped Cap'n Bill, amazed. "Joe Weedles
o' the 'Gladsome'! Why, dash my eyes, mate, you must be my brother!"
"Are YOU Bill Weedles?" asked the other. And then he added, "But
no, you can't be. Bill wasn't no mermaid. He were a human critter like
"That's what I am," said Cap'n Bill hastily. "I'm a human
critter, too. I've jes' borrered this fish tail to swim with while I'm
visitin' the mermaids."
"Well, well," said Cap'n Joe in astonishment. "Who'd o' thought
it! An' who'd ever o' thought as I'd find my long-lost brother in Zog's
enchanted castle full fifty fathoms deep down in the wet, wet water!"
"Why, as fer that," replied Cap'n Bill, "it's YOU as is the
long-lost brother, not me. You an' your ship disappeared many a year ago,
an' ain't never been heard of since, while, as you see, I'm livin' on
"You don't look it to all appearances," remarked Cap'n Joe in a
reflective tone of voice. "But I'll agree it's many a year since I saw
the top o' the water, an' I'm not expectin' to ever tramp on dry land
"Are you dead, or drownded, or what?" asked Cap'n Bill.
"Neither one nor t'other," was the answer. "But Zog gave me gills
so's I could live in the water like fishes do, an' if I got on land I
couldn't breathe air any more'n a fish out o' water can. So I guess as
long as I live, I'll hev to stay down here."
"Do you like it?" asked Trot.
"Oh, I don't objec' much," said Cap'n Joe. "There ain't much
excitement here, fer we don't catch a flock o' mermaids ev'ry day, but the
work is easy an' the rations fair. I might o' been worse off, you know,
for when my brig was wrecked, I'd 'a' gone to Davy Jones's Locker if Zog
hadn't happened to find me an' made me a fish."
"You don't look as much like a fish as Cap'n Bill does," observed
"P'raps not," said Cap'n Joe, "but I notice Bill ain't got any
gills an' breathes like you an' the mermaids does. When he gets back to
land, he'll have his two legs again an' live in comfort breathin' air."
"I won't have two legs," asserted Cap'n Bill, "for when I'm on
earth I'm fitted with one wooden leg, jes' the same as you are, Joe."
"Oh, I hadn't heard o' that, Bill, but I'm not surprised," replied
Brother Joe. "Many a sailor gets to wear a wooden leg in time. Mine's
"So's mine," said Cap'n Bill with a air of pride. "I'm glad I've
run across you, Joe, for I often wondered what had become of you. Seems
too bad, though, to have to spend all your life under water."
"What's the odds?" asked Cap'n Joe. "I never could keep away from
the water since I was a boy, an' there's more dangers to be met floatin'
on it than there is soakin' in it. An' one other thing pleases me when I
think on it: I'm parted from my wife, a mighty good woman with a tongue
like a two-edge sword, an' my pore widder'll get the insurance money an'
live happy. As fer me, Bill, I'm a good deal happier than I was when she
kep' scoldin' me from mornin' to night every minute I was home."
"Is Zog a kind master?" asked Trot.
"I can't say he's kind," replied Cap'n Joe, "for he's as near a
devil as any livin' critter CAN be. He grumbles an' growls in his soft
voice all day, an' hates himself an' everybody else. But I don't see much
of him. There's so many of us slaves here that Zog don't pay much
attention to us, an' we have a pretty good time when the ol' magician is
shut up in his den, as he mostly is."
"Could you help us to escape?" asked the child.
"Why, I don't know how," admitted Cap'n Joe. "There's magic all
around us, and we slaves are never allowed to leave this great cave. I'll
do what I can, o' course, but Sacho is the boy to help you if anyone can.
That little chap knows a heap, I can tell you. So now, if nothin' more's
wanted, I must get back to work."
"What work do you do?" Cap'n Bill asked.
"I sew buttons on Zog's clothes. Every time he gets mad, he busts
his buttons off, an' I have to sew 'em on again. As he's mad most o' the
time, it keeps me busy."
"I'll see you again, won't I, Joe?" said Cap'n Bill.
"No reason why you shouldn't, if you manage to keep alive," said
Cap'n Joe. "But you mustn't forget, Bill, this Zog has his grip on you,
an' I've never known anything to escape him yet."
Saying this, the old sailor began to stump toward the door, but
tripped his foot against his wooden leg and gave a swift dive forward. He
would have fallen flat had he not grabbed the drapery at the doorway and
saved himself by holding fast to it with both hands. Even then he rolled
and twisted so awkwardly before he could get upon his legs that Trot had
to laugh outright at his antics. "This hick'ry leg," said Cap'n Joe, "is
so blamed light that it always wants to float. Agga-Groo, the goldworker,
has promised me a gold leg that will stay down, but he never has time to
make it. You're mighty lucky, Bill, to have a merman's tail instead o'
"I guess I am, Joe," replied Cap'n Bill, "for in such a wet
country the fishes have the best of it. But I ain't sure I'd like this
sort o' thing always."
"Think o' the money you'd make in a side show," said Cap'n Joe
with his funny chuckling laugh. Then he pounded his wooden leg against
the hard floor and managed to hobble from the room without more accidents.
When he had gone, Trot said, "Aren't you glad to find your brother
again, Cap'n Bill?"
"Why, so-so," replied the sailor. "I don't know much about Joe,
seein' as we haven't met before for many a long year, an' all I remember
about our boyhood days is that we fit an' pulled hair most o' the time.
But what worries me most is Joe's lookin' so much like me myself, wooden
leg an' all. Don't you think it's rather cheeky an' unbrotherly, Trot?"
"Perhaps he can't help it," suggested the child. "And anyhow,
he'll never be able to live on land again."
"No," said Cap'n Bill with a sigh. "Joe's a fish, now, an' so he
ain't likely to be took for me by one of our friends on the earth."
When Trot and Cap'n Bill entered the Rose Chamber they found the
two mermaids reclining before an air fountain that was sending thousands
of tiny bubbles up through the water. "These fountains of air are
excellent things," remarked Queen Aquareine, "for they keep the water
fresh and sweet, and that is the more necessary when it is confined by
walls, as it is in this castle. But now, let us counsel together and
decide what to do in the emergency that confronts us."
"How can we tell what to do without knowing what's going to
happen?" asked Trot.
"Somethin's sure to happen," said Cap'n Bill. As if to prove his
words, a gong suddenly sounded at their door and in walked a fat little
man clothed all in white, including a white apron and white cap. His face
was round and jolly, and he had a big mustache that curled up at the ends.
"Well, well!" said the little man, spreading out his legs and
putting his hands on his hips as he stood looking at them. "Of all the
queer things in the sea, you're the queerest! Mermaids, eh?"
"Don't bunch us that way!" protested Cap'n Bill.
"You are quite wrong," said Trot. "I'm a--a girl."
"With a fish's tail?" he asked, laughing at her.
"That's only just for a while," she said, "while I'm in the water,
you know. When I'm at home on the land I walk just as you do, an' so does
"But we haven't any gills," remarked the Cap'n, looking closely at
the little man's throat, "so I take it we're not as fishy as some others."
"If you mean me, I must admit you are right," said the little man,
twisting his mustache. "I'm as near a fish as a man can be. But you see,
Cap'n, without the gills that make me a fish, I could not live under
"When it comes to that, you've no business to live under water,"
asserted the sailor. "But I s'pose you're a slave and can't help it."
"I'm chief cook for that old horror Zog. And that reminds me,
good mermaids, or good people, or good girls and sailors, or whatever you
are, that I'm sent here to ask what you'd like to eat."
"Good to see you, sir," said Cap'n Bill. "I'm nearly starved,
"I had it in mind," said the little man, "to prepare a regular
mermaid dinner, but since you're not mermaids--"
"Oh, two of us are," said the Queen, smiling. "I, my good cook,
am Aquareine, the ruler of the mermaids, and this is the Princess Clia."
"I've often heard of you, your Majesty," returned the chief cook,
bowing respectfully, "and I must say I've heard only good of you. Now
that you have unfortunately become my master's prisoners, it will give me
pleasure to serve you as well as I am able. "
"We thank you, good sir," said Aquareine.
"What have you got to eat?" inquired Trot. "Seems to me I'm
hollow way down to my toes--my tail, I mean--and it'll take a lot to fill
me up. We haven't eaten a morsel since breakfast, you know."
"I think I shall be able to give you almost anything you would
like," said the cook. "Zog is a wonderful magician and can procure
anything that exists with no more effort than a wiggle of his thumb. But
some eatables, you know, are hard to serve under water, because they get
so damp that they are soon ruined."
"Ah, it is different with the mermaids," said Princess Clia.
"Yes, all your things are kept dry because they are surrounded by
air. I've heard how the mermaids live. But here it is different."
"Take this ring," said the Queen, handing the chief cook a circlet
which she drew from her finger. "While it is in your possession, the food
you prepare will not get wet, or even moist."
"I thank your Majesty," returned the cook, taking the ring. "My
name is Tom Atto, and I'll do my best to please you. How would you like
for luncheon some oysters on the half-shell, clam broth, shrimp salad,
broiled turtle steak and watermelon?"
"That will do very nicely," answered the Queen.
"Do watermelons grow in the sea?" asked Trot.
"Of course, that is why they are called watermelons," replied Tom
Atto. "I think I shall serve you a water ice, in addition to the rest.
Water ice is an appropriate sea food."
"Have some watercress with the salad," said Cap'n Bill.
"I'd thought of that," declared the cook. "Doesn't my bill of
fare make your mouths water?"
"Hurry up and get it ready," suggested Trot.
Tom Atto at once bowed and retired, and when they were done, Cap'n
Bill said to the queen, "Do you think, ma'am, we can manage to escape from
Zog and his castle?"
"I hope we shall find a way," replied Aquareine. "The evil powers
of magic which Zog controls may not prove to be as strong as the fairy
powers I possess, but of course I cannot be positive until I discover what
this wicked magician is able to do."
Princess Clia was looking out of one of the windows. "I think I
can see an opening far up in the top of the dome," she said. They all
hastened to the windows to look, and although Trot and Cap'n Bill could
see nothing but a solid dome above the castle--perhaps because it was so
far away from them--the sharp eyes of Aquareine were not to be deceived.
"Yes," she announced, "there is surely an opening in the center of
the great dome. A little thought must convince us that such an opening is
bound to exist, for otherwise the water confined within the dome would not
be fresh or clear."
"Then if we could escape from this castle, we could swim up to the
hole in the dome and get free!" exclaimed Trot.
"Why, Zog has probably ordered the opening well guarded, as he has
all the other outlets," responded the Queen. "Yet it may be worth while
for us to make the attempt to get back into the broad ocean this way. The
night would be the best time, when all are asleep, and surely it will be
quicker to reach the ocean through this hole in the roof than by means of
the long, winding passages by which we entered."
"But we will have to break out of the castle in some way,"
observed Cap'n Bill.
"That will not be difficult," answered Aquareine. "It will be no
trouble for me to shatter one of these panes of glass, allowing us to pass
out and swim straight up to the top of the dome."
"Let's do it now!" said Trot eagerly.
"No, my dear, we must wait for a good opportunity when we are not
watched closely. We do not wish the terrible Zog to thwart our plan,"
answered the Queen gently.
Presently two sailor boys entered bearing trays of food, which
they placed upon a large table. They were cheery-faced young fellows with
gills at their throats, but had laughing eyes, and Trot was astonished not
to find any of the slaves of Zog weeping or miserable. Instead, they were
as jolly and good-natured as could be and seemed to like their life under
the water. Cap'n Bill asked one of the boys how many slaves were in the
castle, and the youth replied that he would try to count them and let him
Tom Atto had, they found, prepared for them an excellent meal, and
they ate heartily because they were really hungry. After luncheon Cap'n
Bill smoked his pipe contentedly, and they renewed their conversation,
planning various ways to outwit Zog and make their escape. While thus
engaged, the gong at the door sounded and Sacho entered.
"My diabolical master commands you to attend him," said the boy.
"When?" asked Aquareine.
"At once, your Majesty."
"Very well, we will follow you," she said. So they swam down the
corridors following Sacho until they again reached the golden-domed room
they had formerly visited. Here sat Zog just as they had left him,
seemingly, but when his prisoners entered, the magician arose and stood
upon his cloven feet and then silently walked to a curtained archway.
Sacho commanded the prisoners to follow, and beyond the archway
they found a vast chamber that occupied the center of the castle and was
as big as a ballroom. Zog, who seemed to walk with much difficulty
because his ungainly body swayed back and forth,did not go far beyond the
arched entrance. A golden throne was set nearby, and in this the monster
seated himself. At one side of the throne stood a group of slaves. They
were men, women and children. All had broad gold bands clasped around
their ankles as a badge of servitude, and at each throat were the fish's
gills that enabled them to breathe and live under water. Yet every face
was smiling and serene, even in the presence of their dread master. In
parts of the big hall were groups of other slaves.
Sacho ranged the prisoners in a circle before Zog's throne, and
slowly the magician turned his eyes, glowing like live coals, upon the
four. "Captives," said he, speaking in his clear, sweet voice, "in our
first interview you defied me, and both the mermaid queen and the princess
declared they could not die. But if that is a true statement, as I have
yet to discover, there are various ways to make you miserable and unhappy,
and this I propose to do in order to amuse myself at your expense. You
have been brought here to undergo the first trial of strength between us."
None of the prisoners replied to this speech, so Zog turned to one of his
slaves and said, "Rivivi, bring in the Yell-Maker."
Rivivi was a big fellow, brown of skin and with flashing, black
eyes. He bowed to his master and left the room by an archway covered with
heavy draperies. The next moment these curtains were violently pushed
aside, and a dreadful sea creature swam into the hall. It had a body much
like that of a crab, only more round and of a jet-black color. Its eyes
were bright yellow balls set on the ends of two horns that stuck out of
its head. They were cruel-looking eyes, too, and seemed able to see every
person in the room at the same time. The legs of the Yell-Maker, however,
were the most curious part of the creature. There were six of them,
slender and black as coal, and each extended twelve to fifteen feet from
its body when stretched out in a straight line. They were hinged in
several places so they could be folded up or extended at will. At the
ends of these thin legs were immense claws shaped like those of a lobster,
and they were real "nippers" of a most dangerous sort.
The prisoners knew, as soon as they saw the awful claws, why the
thing was called the "Yell-Maker," and Trot gave a little shiver and crept
closer to Cap'n Bill. Zog looked with approval upon the creature he had
summoned and said to it, "I give you four victims, the four people with
fish's tails. Let me hear how loud they can yell."
The Yell-Maker uttered a grunt of pleasure and in a flash
stretched out one of its long legs toward the queen's nose, where its
powerful claws came together with a loud noise. Aquareine did not stir;
she only smiled. Both Zog and the creature that had attacked her seemed
much surprised to find she was unhurt. "Again!" cried Zog, and again the
Yell-Maker's claw shot out and tried to pinch the queen's pretty ear. But
the magic of the fairy mermaid was proof against this sea-rascal's
strength and swiftness, nor could he touch any part of Aquareine, although
he tried again and again, roaring with anger like a mad bull.
Trot began to enjoy this performance, and as her merry, childish
laughter rang out, the Yell-Maker turned furiously upon the little girl,
two of the dreadful claws trying to nip her at the same time. She had no
chance to cry out or jump backward, yet she remained unharmed. For the
Fairy Circle of Queen Aquareine kept her safe. Now Cap'n Bill was
attacked, and Princess Clia as well. The half-dozen slender legs darted
in every direction like sword thrusts to reach their victims, and the
cruel claws snapped so rapidly that the sound was like the rattling of
castanets. But the four prisoners regarded their enemy with smiling
composure, and no yell greeted the Yell-Maker's efforts.
"Enough!" said Zog, softly and sweetly. "You may retire, my poor
Yell-Maker, for with these people you are powerless."
The creature paused and rolled its yellow eyes. "May I nip just
one of the slaves, oh Zog?" it asked pleadingly. "I hate to leave without
pleasing your ears with a single yell."
"Let my slaves alone," was Zog's answer. "They are here to serve
me and must not be injured. Go, feeble one."
"Not so!" cried the Queen. "It is a shame, Zog, that such an evil
thing should exist in our fair sea." With this, she drew her fairy wand
from a fold of her gown and waved it toward the creature. At once the
Yell-Maker sank down unconscious upon the floor; its legs fell apart in
many pieces, the claws tumbling in a heap beside the body. Then all grew
withered and lost shape, becoming a pulpy mass, like gelatin. A few
moments later the creature had melted away to nothing at all, forever
disappearing from the ocean where it had caused so much horror and pain.
Zog watched this destruction with surprising patience. When it
was all over, he nodded his head and smiled, and Trot noticed that
whenever Zog smiled, his slaves lost their jolly looks and began to
tremble. "That is very pretty magic, Aquareine," said the monster. "I
myself learned the trick several thousand years ago, so it does not
astonish me. Have you fairies nothing that is new to show me?"
"We desire only to protect ourselves," replied the Queen with
"Then I will give you a chance to do so," said Zog. As he spoke,
the great marble blocks in the ceiling of the room directly over the heads
of the captives gave way and came crashing down upon them. Many tons of
weight were in these marble blocks, and the magician had planned to crush
his victims where they stood. But the four were still unharmed. The
marble, being unable to touch them, was diverted from its course, and when
the roar of the great crash had died away, Zog saw his intended victims
standing quietly in their places and smiling scornfully at his weak
attempts to destroy them.
Cap'n Bill's heart was beating pretty vast, but he did not let Zog
know that. Trot was so sure of the protection of the fairy mermaids that
she would not allow herself to become frightened. Aquareine and Clia were
as calm as if nothing had happened.
"Please excuse this little interruption," said Zog. "I knew very
well the marble blocks would not hurt you. But the play is over for a
time. You may now retire to your rooms, and when I again invite you to my
presence, I shall have found some better ways to entertain you."
Without reply to this threat, they turned and followed Sacho from
the hall, and the boy led them straight back to their own rooms. "Zog is
making a great mistake," said Sacho with a laugh. "He has no time for
vengeance, but the great magician does not know that."
"What is he trying to do, anyway?" asked Trot.
"He does not tell me all his secrets, but I've an idea he wants to
kill you," replied Sacho. "How absurd it is to be plotting such a thing
when he might spend his time in laughing and being jolly! Isn't it, now?"
"Zog is a wicked, wicked creature!" exclaimed Trot.
"But he had his good points," replied Sacho cheerfully. "There is
no one about in the world so bad that there is nothing good about him."
"I'm not so sure of that," said Cap'n Bill. "What are Zog's good
"All his slaves were saved from drowning, and he is kind to them,"
"That is merely the kindness of selfishness," said Aquareine.
"Tell me, my lad, is the opening in the great dome outside guarded?"
"Yes indeed," was the reply. "You cannot hope to escape in that
way, for the prince of the sea devils, who is the largest and fiercest of
his race, lies crouched over the opening night and day, and none can pass
his network of curling legs."
"Is there no avenue that is not guarded?" continued Aquareine.
"None at all, your Majesty. Zog is always careful to be well
guarded, for he fears the approach of an enemy. What this enemy can be to
terrify the great magician I do not know, but Zog is always afraid and
never leaves an entrance unguarded. Besides,it is an enchanted castle,
you know, and none in the ocean can see it unless Zog wishes him to. So
it will be very hard for his enemy to find him."
"We wish to escape," said Clia. "Will you help us, Sacho?"
"In any way I can," replied the boy.
"If we succeed, we will take you with us," continued the Princess.
But Sacho shook his head and laughed. "I would indeed like to see
you escape Zog's vengeance," said he, "for vengeance is wrong, and you are
too pretty and too good to be destroyed. But I am happy here and have no
wish to go away, having no other home or friends other than my fellow
Then he left them, and when they were again alone, Aquareine said,
"We were able to escape Zog's attacks today, but I am quite sure he will
plan more powerful ways to destroy us. He has shown that he knows some
clever magic, and perhaps I shall not be able to foil it. So it will be
well for us to escape tonight if possible."
"Can you fight and conquer the big sea devil up in the dome?"
The queen was thoughtful, and did not reply to this question at
once. But Cap'n Bill said uneasily, "I can't abide them devil critters,
an' I hopes, for my part, we won't be called on to tackle 'em. You see,
Trot, we're in consider'ble of a bad mess, an' if we ever live to tell the
"Why not, Cap'n?" asked the child. "We're safe enough so far.
Can't you trust our good friend, the queen?"
"She don't seem plumb sure o' things herself," remarked the
sailor. "The mermaids is all right an' friendly, mate, but this 'ere magic
maker, ol' Zog, is a bad one, out 'n'' out, an' means to kill us if he
"But he can't!" cried Trot bravely.
"I hope you're right, dear. I wouldn't want to bet on Zog's
chances jes' yet, an' at the same time it would be riskin' money to bet on
our chances. Seems to me it's a case of luck which wins."
"Don't worry, friend," said the Queen. "I have a plan to save us.
Let us wait patiently until nightfall." They waited in the Rose Chamber a
long time, talking earnestly together, but the brilliant light that
flooded both the room and the great dome outside did not fade in the
least. After several hours had passed away, the gong sounded and Tom Atto
again appeared, followed by four slaves bearing many golden dishes upon
silver trays. The friendly cook had prepared a fine dinner, and they were
all glad to find that, whatever Zog intended to do to them, he had no
intention of starving them. Perhaps the magician realized that
Aquareine's fairy powers, if put to the test, would be able to provide
food for her companions, but whatever his object may have been, their
enemy had given them splendid rooms and plenty to eat.
"Isn't it nearly nighttime?" asked the Queen as Tom Atto spread
the table with a cloth of woven seaweed and directed his men to place the
dishes upon it.
"Night!" he exclaimed as if surprised. "There is no night here."
"Doesn't it ever get dark?" inquired Trot.
"Never. We know nothing of the passage of time or of day or
night. The light always shines just as you see it now, and we sleep
whenever we are tired and rise again as soon as we are rested."
"What causes the light?" Princess Clia asked.
"It's magic, your Highness," said the cook solemnly. "It's one of
the curious things Zog is able to do. But you must remember all this
place is a big cave in which the castle stands, so the light is never seen
by anyone except those who live here."
"But why does Zog keep his light going all the time?" asked the
"I suppose it is because he himself never sleeps," replied Tom
Atto. "They say the master hasn't slept for hundreds of years, not since
Anko, the sea serpent, defeated him and drove him into this place."
They asked no more questions and began to eat their dinner in
silence. Before long, Cap'n Joe came in to visit his brother and took a
seat at the table with the prisoners. He proved a jolly fellow, and when
he and Cap'n Bill talked about their boyhood days, the stories were so
funny that everybody laughed and for a time forgot their worries.
When dinner was over, however, and Cap'n Joe had gone back to his
work of sewing on buttons and the servants had carried away the dishes,
the prisoners remembered their troubles and the fate that awaited them. "I
am much disappointed," said the Queen, "to find there is no night here and
that Zog never sleeps. It will make our escape more difficult. Yet we
must make the attempt, and as we are tired and a great struggle is before
us, it will be best for us to sleep and refresh ourselves."
They agreed to this, for the day had been long and adventurous, so
Cap'n Bill kissed Trot and went in to the Peony Room, where he lay down
upon his spongy couch and fell fast asleep. The mermaids and Trot
followed this example, and I think none of them was much worried, after
all, because they quickly sank into peaceful slumber and forgot all the
dangers that threatened them.
"Goodness me!" exclaimed Trot, raising herself by a flirt of her
pink-scaled tail and a wave of her fins, "isn't it dreadful hot here?"
The mermaids had risen at the same time, and Cap'n Bill came
swimming in from the Peony Room in time to hear the little girl's speech.
"Hot!" echoed the sailor. "Why, I feel like the inside of a steam
engine!" The perspiration was rolling down his round, red face, and he
took out his handkerchief and carefully wiped it away, waving his fish
tail gently at the same time. "What we need most in this room," said he,
"is a fan."
"What's the trouble, do you s'pose?" inquired Trot.
"It is another trick of the monster Zog," answered the Queen
calmly. "He has made the water in our rooms boiling hot, and if it could
touch us, we would be well cooked by this time. Even as it is, we are all
made uncomfortable by breathing the heated air."
"What shall we do, ma'am?" the sailor man asked with a groan. "I
expected to get into hot water afore we've done with this foolishness, but
I don't like the feel o' bein' parboiled, jes' the same."
The queen was waving her fairy wand and paid no attention to Cap'n
Bill's moans. Already the water felt cooler, and they began to breathe
more easily. In a few moments more, the heat had passed from the
surrounding water altogether, and all danger from this source was over.
"This is better," said Trot gratefully.
"Do you care to sleep again?" asked the Queen.
"No, I'm wide awake now," answered the child.
"I'm afraid if I goes to sleep ag'in, I'll wake up a pot roast,"
said Cap'n Bill.
"Let us consider ways to escape," suggested Clia. "It seems
useless for us to remain here quietly until Zog discovers a way to destroy
"But we must not blunder," added Aquareine cautiously. "To fail
in our attempt would be to acknowledge Zog's superior power, so we must
think well upon our plan before we begin to carry it out. What do you
advise, sir?" she asked, turning to Cap'n Bill.
"My opinion, ma'am, is that the only way for us to escape is to
get out o' here," was the sailor's vague answer. "How to do it is your
business, seein' as I ain't no fairy myself, either in looks or in
The queen smiled and said to Trot, "What is your opinion, my dear?"
"I think we might swim out the same way we came in," answered the
child. "If we could get Sacho to lead us back through the maze, we would
follow that long tunnel to the open ocean, and--"
"And there would be the sea devils waitin' for us," added Cap'n
Bill with a shake of his bald head. "They'd drive us back inter the
tunnel like they did the first time, Trot. It won't do, mate, it won't
"Have you a suggestion, Clia?" inquired the Queen.
"I have thought of an undertaking," replied the pretty princess,
"but it is a bold plan, your Majesty, and you may not care to risk it."
"Let us hear it, anyway," said Aquareine encouragingly.
"It is to destroy Zog himself and put him out of the world
forever. Then we would be free to go home whenever we pleased."
"Can you suggest a way to destroy Zog?" asked Aquareine.
"No, your Majesty," Clia answered. "I must leave the way for you
"In the old days," said the Queen thoughtfully, "the mighty King
Anko could not destroy this monster. He succeeded in defeating Zog and
drove him into this great cavern, but even Anko could not destroy him."
"I have heard the sea serpent explain that it was because he could
not reach the magician," returned Clia. "If King Anko could have seized
Zog in his coils, he would have made an end of the wicked monster quickly.
Zog knows this, and that is why he does not venture forth from his
retreat. Anko is the enemy he constantly dreads. But with you, my queen,
the case is different. You may easily reach Zog, and the only question is
whether your power is sufficient to destroy him."
For a while Aquareine remained silent. "I am not sure of my power
over him," she said at last, "and for that reason I hesitate to attack him
personally. His slaves and his allies, the sea devils, I can easily
conquer, so I prefer to find a way to overcome the guards at the entrances
rather than to encounter their terrible master. But even the guards have
been given strength and power by the magician, as we have already
discovered, so I must procure a weapon with which to fight them."
"A weapon, ma'am?" said Cap'n Bill, and then he took a jackknife
from his coat pocket and opened the big blade, afterward handing it to the
queen. "That ain't a bad weapon," he announced.
"But it is useless in this case," she replied, smiling at the old
sailor's earnestness. "For my purpose I must have a golden sword."
"Well, there's plenty of gold around this castle," said Trot,
looking around her. "Even in this room there's enough to make a hundred
"But we can't melt or forge gold under water, mate," the Cap'n
"Why not? Don't you s'pose all these gold roses and things were
made under water?" asked the little girl.
"Like enough," remarked the sailor, "but I don't see how."
Just then the gong at the door sounded, and the boy Sacho came in
smiling and cheerful as ever. He said Zog had sent him to inquire after
their health and happiness. "You may tell him that his water became a
trifle too warm, so we cooled it," replied the Queen. Then they told
Sacho how the boiling water had made them uncomfortable while they slept.
Sacho whistled a little tune and seemed thoughtful. "Zog is
foolish," said he. "How often have I told him that vengeance is a waste
of time. He is worried to know how to destroy you, and that is wasting
more time. You are worried for fear he will injure you, and so you also
are wasting time. My, my! What a waste of time is going on in this
"Seems to me that we have so much time it doesn't matter," said
Trot. "What's time for, anyhow?"
"Time is given us to be happy, and for no other reason," replied
the boy soberly. "When we waste time, we waste happiness. But there is
no time for preaching, so I'll go."
"Please wait a moment, Sacho," said the Queen.
"Can I do anything to make you happy?" he asked, smiling again.
"Yes," answered Aquareine. "We are curious to know who does all
this beautiful gold work and ornamentation."
"Some of the slaves here are goldsmiths, having been taught by Zog
to forge and work metal under water," explained Sacho. "In parts of the
ocean lie many rocks filled with veins of pure gold and golden nuggets,
and we get large supplies from sunken ships as well. There is no lack of
gold here, but it is not as precious as it is upon the earth because here
we have no need of money."
"We would like to see the goldsmiths at work," announced the
The boy hesitated a moment. Then he said, "I will take you to
their room, where you may watch them for a time. I will not ask Zog's
permission to do this, for he might refuse. But my orders were to allow
you the liberty of the castle, and so I will let you see the goldsmiths'
"Thank you," replied Aquareine quietly, and then the four followed
Sacho along various corridors until they came to a large room where a
dozen men were busily at work. Lying here and there were heaps of virgin
gold, some in its natural state and some already fashioned into ornaments
and furniture of various sorts. Each man worked at a bench where there
was a curious iron furnace in which glowed a vivid, white light. Although
this workshop was all under water and the workmen were all obliged to
breathe as fishes do, the furnaces glowed so hot that the water touching
them was turned into steam. Gold or other metal held over a furnace
quickly softened or melted, when it could be forged or molded into any
"The furnaces are electric," explained Sacho, "and heat as well
under water as they would in the open air. Let me introduce you to the
foreman, who will tell you of his work better than I can."
The foreman was a slave named Agga-Groo, who was lean and lank and
had an expression more surly and unhappy than any slave they had yet seen.
Yet he seemed willing to leave his work and explain to the visitors how he
made so many beautiful things out of gold, for he took much pride in this
labor and knew its artistic worth. Moreover, since he had been in Zog's
castle these were the first strangers to enter his workshop, so he
welcomed them in his own gruff way.
The queen asked him if he was happy, and he shook his head and
replied, "It isn't like Calcutta, where I used to work in gold before I
was wrecked at sea and nearly drowned. Zog rescued me and brought me here
a slave. It is a stupid life we lead, doing the same things over and over
every day, but perhaps it is better than being dead. I'm not sure. The
only pleasure I get in life is in creating pretty things out of gold."
"Could you forge me a golden sword?" asked the Queen, smiling
sweetly upon the goldsmith.
"I could, madam, but I won't unless Zog orders me to do it."
"Do you like Zog better than you do me?" inquired Aquareine.
"No," was the answer. "I hate Zog."
"Then won't you make the sword to please me and to show your
skill?" pleaded the pretty mermaid.
"I'm afraid of my master. He might not like it," the man replied.
"But he will never know," said Princess Clia.
"You cannot say what Zog knows or what he doesn't know," growled
the man. "I can't take chances of offending Zog, for I must live with him
always as a slave." With this he turned away and resumed his work,
hammering the leaf of a golden ship.
Cap'n Bill had listened carefully to this conversation, and being
a wise old sailor in his way, he thought he understood the nature of old
Agga-Groo better than the mermaids did. So he went close to the
goldsmith, and feeling in the pockets of his coat drew out a silver
compass shaped like a watch. "I'll give you this if you'll make the queen
the golden sword," he said.
Agga-Groo looked at the compass with interest and tested its power
of pointing north. Then he shook his head and handed it back to Cap'n
Bill. The sailor dived into his pocket again and pulled out a pair of
scissors, which he placed beside the compass on the palm of his big hand.
"You may have them both," he said.
Agga-Groo hesitated, for he wanted the scissors badly, but finally
he shook his head again. Cap'n Bill added a piece of cord, an iron
thimble, some fishhooks, four buttons and a safety pin, but still the
goldsmith would not be tempted. So with a sigh the sailor brought out his
fine, big jackknife, and at sight of this Agga-Groo's eyes began to
sparkle. Steel was not to be had at the bottom of the sea, although gold
was so plentiful. "All right, friend," he said. "Give me that lot of
trinkets and I'll make you a pretty gold sword. But it won't be any good
except to look at, for our gold is so pure that it is very soft."
"Never mind that," replied Cap'n Bill. "All we want is the sword."
The goldsmith set to work at once, and so skillful was he that in
a few minutes he had forged a fine sword of yellow gold with an ornamental
handle. The shape was graceful and the blade keen and slender. It was
evident to them all that the golden sword would not stand hard use, for
the edge of the blade would nick and curl like lead, but the queen was
delighted with the prize and took it eagerly in her hand.
Just then Sacho returned to say that they must go back to their
rooms, and after thanking the goldsmith, who was so busy examining his
newly acquired treasure that he made no response, they joyfully followed
the boy back to the Rose Chamber. Sacho told them that he had just come
from Zog, who was still wasting time in plotting vengeance. "You must be
careful," he advised them, "for my cruel master intends to stop you from
living, and he may succeed. Don't be unhappy, but be careful. Zog is
angry because you escaped his Yell-Maker and the falling stones and the
hot water. While he is angry he is wasting time, but that will not help
you. Take care not to waste any time yourselves."
"Do you know what Zog intends to do to us next?" asked Princess
"No," said Sacho, "but it is reasonable to guess that, being evil,
he intends evil. He never intends to do good, I assure you." Then the
boy went away.
"I am no longer afraid," declared the Mermaid Queen when they were
alone. "When I have bestowed certain fairy powers upon this golden sword,
it will fight its way against any who dare oppose us, and even Zog himself
will not care to face so powerful a weapon. I am now able to promise you
that we shall make our escape."
"Good!" cried Trot joyfully. "Shall we start now?"
"Not yet, my dear. It will take me a little while to charm this
golden blade so that it will obey my commands and do my work. There is no
need of undue haste, so I propose we all sleep for a time and obtain what
rest we can. We must be fresh and ready for our great adventure."
As their former nap had been interrupted, they readily agreed to
Aquareine's proposal and at once went to their couches and composed
themselves to slumber. When they were asleep, the fairy mermaid charmed
her golden sword and then she also lay down to rest herself.
Trot dreamed that she was at home in her own bed, but the night
seemed chilly and she wanted to draw the coverlet up to her chin. She was
not wide awake, but realized that she was cold and unable to move her arms
to cover herself up. She tried, but could not stir. Then she roused
herself a little more and tried again. Yes, it was cold, very cold!
Really, she MUST do something to get warm, she thought. She opened her
eyes and stared at a great wall of ice in front of her. She was awake now,
and frightened, too. But she could not move because the ice was all
around her. She was frozen inside of it, and the air space around her was
not big enough to allow her to turn over.
At once the little girl realized what had happened. Their wicked
enemy Zog had by his magic art frozen all the water in their room while
they slept, and now they were all imprisoned and helpless. Trot and Cap'n
Bill were sure to freeze to death in a short time, for only a tiny air
space remained between their bodies and the ice, and this air was like
that of a winter day when the thermometer is below zero.
Across the room Trot could see the mermaid queen lying on her
couch, for the solid ice was clear as crystal. Aquareine was imprisoned
just as Trot was, and although she held her fairy wand in one hand and the
golden sword in the other, she seemed unable to move either of them, and
the girl remembered that the queen always waved her magic wand to
accomplish anything. Princess Clia's couch was behind that of Trot, so
the child could not see her, and Cap'n Bill was in his own room, probably
frozen fast in the ice as the others were. The terrible Zog has surely
been very clever in this last attempt to destroy them. Trot thought it all
over, and she decided that inasmuch as the queen was unable to wave her
fairy wand, she could do nothing to release herself or her friends.
But in this the girl was mistaken. The fairy mermaid was even now
at work trying to save them, and in a few minutes Trot was astonished and
delighted to see the queen rise from her couch. She could not go far from
it at first, but the ice was melting rapidly all around her so that
gradually Aquareine approached the place where the child lay. Trot could
hear the mermaid's voice sounding through the ice as if from afar off, but
it grew more distinct until she could make out that the queen was saying,
"Courage, friends! Do not despair, for soon you will be free." Before
very long the ice between Trot and the queen had melted away entirely, and
with a cry of joy the little girl flopped her pink tail and swam to the
side of her deliverer.
"Are you very cold?" asked Aquareine.
"N-not v-v-very!" replied Trot, but her teeth chattered and she
was still shivering.
"The water will be warm in a few minutes," said the Queen. "But
now I must melt the rest of the ice and liberate Clia." This she did in
an astonishingly brief time, and the pretty princess, being herself a
fairy, had not been at all affected by the cold surrounding her.
They now swam to the door of Cap'n Bill's room and found the Peony
Chamber a solid block of ice. The queen worked her magic power as hard as
she could, and the ice flowed and melted quickly before her fairy wand.
Yet when they reached the old sailor, he was almost frozen stiff, and Trot
and Clia had to rub his hands and nose and ears very briskly to warm him
up and bring him back to life.
Cap'n Bill was pretty tough, and he came around, in time, and
opened his eyes and sneezed and asked if the blizzard was over. So the
queen waved her wand over his head a few times to restore him to his
natural condition of warmth, and soon the old sailor became quite
comfortable and was able to understand all about the strange adventure
from which he had so marvelously escaped.
"I've made up my mind to one thing, Trot," he said confidentially.
"If ever I get out o' this mess I'm in, I won't be an Arctic explorer,
whatever else happens. Shivers an' shakes ain't to my likin', an' this
ice business ain't what it's sometimes cracked up to be. To be friz once
is enough fer anybody, an' if I was a gal like you, I wouldn't even wear
frizzes on my hair."
"You haven't any hair, Cap'n Bill," answered Trot, "so you needn't
The queen and Clia had been talking together very earnestly. They
now approached their earth friends, and Aquareine said, "We have decided
not to remain in this castle any longer. Zog's cruel designs upon our
lives and happiness are becoming too dangerous for us to endure. The
golden sword now bears a fairy charm, and by its aid I will cut a way
through our enemies. Are you ready and willing to follow me?"
"Of course we are!" cried Trot.
"It don't seem 'zactly right to ask a lady to do the fightin',"
remarked Cap'n Bill, "but magic ain't my strong p'int, and it seems to be
yours, ma'am. So swim ahead, and we'll wiggle the same way you do, an'
try to wiggle out of our troubles."
"If I chance to fail," said the Queen, "try not to blame me. I
will do all in my power to provide for our escape, and I am willing to
risk everything, because I well know that to remain here will mean to
perish in the end."
"That's all right," said Trot with fine courage. "Let's have it
"Then we will leave here at once," said Aquareine.
She approached the window of the room and with one blow of her
golden sword shattered the thick pane of glass. The opening thus made was
large enough for them to swim through if they were careful not to scrape
against the broken points of glass. The queen went first, followed by
Trot and Cap'n Bill, with Clia last of all.
And now they were in the vast dome in which the castle and gardens
of Zog had been built. Around them was a clear stretch of water, and far
above--full half a mile distant--was the opening in the roof guarded by
the prince of the sea devils. The mermaid queen had determined to attack
this monster. If she succeeded in destroying it with her golden sword,
the little band of fugitives might then swim through the opening into the
clear waters of the ocean. Although this prince of the sea devils was
said to be big and wise and mighty, there was but one of him to fight;
whereas, if they attempted to escape through any of the passages, they
must encounter scores of such enemies.
"Swim straight for the opening in the dome!" cried Aquareine, and
in answer to the command, the four whisked their glittering tails, waved
their fins, and shot away through the water at full speed, their course
slanting upward toward the top of the dome.
The great magician Zog never slept. He was always watchful and
alert. Some strange power warned him that his prisoners were about to
escape. Scarcely had the four left the castle by the broken window when
the monster stepped from a doorway below and saw them. Instantly he blew
upon a golden whistle, and at the summons a band of wolf-fish appeared and
dashed after the prisoners. These creatures swam so swiftly that soon
they were between the fugitives and the dome, and then they turned and
with wicked eyes and sharp fangs began a fierce attack upon the mermaids
and the earth dwellers.
Trot was a little frightened at the evil looks of the sea wolves,
whose heads were enormous, and whose jaws contained rows of curved and
pointed teeth. But Aquareine advanced upon them with her golden sword,
and every touch of the charmed weapon instantly killed an enemy, so that
one by one the wolf-fish rolled over upon their backs and sank helplessly
downward through the water, leaving the prisoners free to continue their
way toward the opening in the dome.
Zog witnessed the destruction of his wolves and uttered a loud
laugh that was terrible to hear. Then the dread monster determined to
arrest the fugitives himself, and in order to do this he was forced to
discover himself in all the horror of his awful form, a form he was so
ashamed of and loathed so greatly that he always strove to keep it
concealed, even from his own view. But it was important that his
prisoners should not escape. Hastily casting off the folds of the robe
that enveloped him, Zog allowed his body to uncoil and shoot upward
through the water in swift pursuit of his victims. His cloven hoofs, upon
which he usually walked, being now useless, were drawn up under him, while
coil after coil of his eel-like body wriggled away like a serpent. At his
shoulders two broad, feathery wings expanded, and these enabled the
monster to cleave his way through the water with terrific force.
Zog was part man, part beast, part fish, part fowl, and part
reptile. His undulating body was broad and thin and like the body of an
eel. It was as repulsive as one could well imagine, and no wonder Zog
hated it and kept it covered with his robe. Now, with his horned head and
its glowing eyes thrust forward, wings flapping from his shoulders and his
eely body--ending in a fish's tail--wriggling far behind him, this strange
and evil creature was a thing of terror even to the sea dwellers, who were
accustomed to remarkable sights.
The mermaids, the sailor and the child, one after another looking
back as they swam toward liberty and safety, saw the monster coming and
shuddered with uncontrollable fear. They were drawing nearer to the dome
by this time, yet it was still some distance away. The four redoubled
their speed, darting through the water with the swiftness of skyrockets.
But fast as they swam, Zog swam faster, and the good queen's heart began
to throb as she realized she would be forced to fight her loathesome foe.
Presently Zog's long body was circling around them like a
whirlwind, lashing the water into foam and gradually drawing nearer and
nearer to his victims. His eyes were no longer glowing coals, they were
balls of flame, and as he circled around them, he laughed aloud that
horrible laugh which was far more terrifying than any cry of rage could
be. The queen struck out with her golden sword, but Zog wrapped a coil of
his thin body around it and, wrestling it from her hand, crushed the
weapon into a shapeless mass. Then Aquareine waved her fairy wand, but in
a flash the monster sent it flying away through the water.
Cap'n Bill now decided that they were lost. He drew Trot closer
to his side and placed one arm around her. "I can't save you, dear little
mate," he said sadly, "but we've lived a long time together, an' now we'll
die together. I knew, Trot, when first we sawr them mermaids, as
"Never live to tell the tale," said the child. "But never mind,
Cap'n Bill, we've done the best we could, and we've had a fine time."
"Forgive me! Oh, forgive me!" cried Aquareine despairingly. "I
tried to save you, my poor friends, but--"
"What's that?" exclaimed the Princess, pointing upward. They all
looked past Zog's whirling body, which was slowly enveloping them in its
folds, toward the round opening in the dome. A dark object had appeared
there, sliding downward like a huge rope and descending toward them with
lightning rapidly (sic--rapidity?). They gave a great gasp as they
recognized the countenance of King Anko, the sea serpent, its gray hair
and whiskers bristling like those of an angry cat, and the usually mild
blue eyes glowing with a ferocity even more terrifying than the orbs of
The magician gave a shrill scream at sight of his dreaded enemy,
and abandoning his intended victims, Zog made a quick dash to escape. But
nothing in the sea could equal the strength and quickness of King Anko
when he was roused. In a flash the sea serpent had caught Zog fast in his
coils, and his mighty body swept round the monster and imprisoned him
tightly. The four, so suddenly rescued, swam away to a safer distance
from the struggle, and then they turned to watch the encounter between the
two great opposing powers of the ocean's depths. Yet there was no
desperate fight to observe, for the combatants were unequal. The end came
before they were aware of it. Zog had been taken by surprise, and his
great fear of Anko destroyed all of his magic power. When the sea serpent
slowly released those awful coils, a mass of jelly-like pulp floated
downward through the water with no remnant of life remaining in it, no
form to show it had once been Zog, the Magician.
Then Anko shook his body that the water might cleanse it, and
advanced his head toward the group of four whom he had so opportunely
rescued. "It is all over, friends," said he in his gentle tones, while a
mild expression once more reigned on his comical features. "You may go
home at any time you please, for the way through the dome will be open as
soon as I get my own body through it."
Indeed, so amazing was the length of the great sea serpent that
only a part of him had descended through the hole into the dome. Without
waiting for the thanks of those he had rescued, he swiftly retreated to
the ocean above, and with grateful hearts they followed him, glad to leave
the cavern where they had endured so much anxiety and danger.
Trot sobbed quietly with her head on Cap'n Bill's shoulder. She
had been a brave little girl during the trying times they had experienced
and never once had she given way to tears, however desperate their fate
had seemed to be. But now that the one enemy in all the sea to be dreaded
was utterly destroyed and all dangers were past, the reaction was so great
that she could not help having "just one good cry," as she naively
Cap'n Bill was a big sailor man hardened by age and many
adventures, but even he felt a "Lump in his throat" that he could not
swallow, try as hard as he might. Cap'n Bill was glad. He was mostly
glad on Trot's account, for he loved his sweet, childish companion very
dearly, and did not want any harm to befall her.
They were now in the wide, open sea, with liberty to go wherever
they wished, and if Cap'n Bill could have "had his way," he would have
gone straight home and carried Trot to her mother. But the mermaids must
be considered. Aquareine and Clia had been true and faithful friends to
their earth guests while dangers were threatening, and it would not be
very gracious to leave them at once. Moreover, King Anko was now with
them, his big head keeping pace with the mermaids as they swam, and this
mighty preserver had a distinct claim upon Trot and Cap'n Bill. The
sailor felt that it would not be polite to ask to go home so soon.
"If you people had come to visit me as I invited you to do," said
the Sea Serpent, "all this bother and trouble would have been saved. I
had my palace put in order to receive the earth dwellers and sat in my den
waiting patiently to receive you. Yet you never came at all."
"That reminds me," said Trot, drying her eyes, "you never told us
about that third pain you once had."
"Finally," continued Anko, "I sent to inquire as to what had
become of you, and Merla said you had been gone from the palace a long
time and she was getting anxious about you. Then I made inquiries.
Everyone in the sea loves to serve me--except those sea devils and their
cousins, the octopi--and it wasn't long before I heard you had been
captured by Zog."
"Was the third pain as bad as the other two?" asked Trot.
"Naturally this news disturbed me and made me unhappy," said Anko,
"for I well knew, my Aquareine, that the magician's evil powers were
greater than your own fairy accomplishments. But I had never been able to
find Zog's enchanted castle, and so I was at a loss to know how to save
you from your dreadful fate. After I had wasted a good deal of time
thinking it over, I decided that if the sea devils were slaves of Zog, the
prince of the sea devils must know where the enchanted castle was located.
"I knew this prince and where to find him, for he always lay on a
hollow rock on the bottom of the sea and never moved from that position.
His people brought food to him and took his commands. So I had no trouble
in finding this evil prince, and I went to him and asked the way to Zog's
castle. Of course, he would not tell me. He was even cross and
disrespectful, just as I had expected him to be, so I allowed myself to
become angry and killed him, thinking he was much better dead than alive.
But after the sea devil was destroyed, what was my surprise to find that
all these years he had been lying over a round hole in the rock and
covering it with his scarlet body!
"A light shone through this hole, so I thrust my head in and found
a great domed cave underneath with a splendid silver castle built at the
bottom. You, my friends, were at that moment swimming toward me as fast
as you could come, and the monster Zog, my enemy for centuries past, was
close behind you. Well, the rest of the story you know. I would be angry
with all of you for so carelessly getting captured, had the incident not
led to the destruction of the one evil genius in all my ocean. I shall
rest easier and be much happier now that Zog is dead. He has defied me
for hundreds of years."
"But about that third pain," said Trot. "If you don't tell us
now, I'm afraid that I'll forget to ask you."
"If you should happen to forget, just remind me of it," said Anko,
"and I'll be sure to tell you."
While Trot was thinking this over, the swimmers drew near to a
great, circular palace made all of solid alabaster polished as smooth as
ivory. Its roof was a vast dome, for domes seemed to be fashionable in
the ocean houses. There were no doors or windows, but instead of these,
several round holes appeared in different parts of the dome, some being
high up and some low down and some in between. Out of one of these holes,
which it just fitted, stretched the long, brown body of the sea serpent.
Trot, being astonished at this sight, asked, "Didn't you take all of you
when you went to the cavern, Anko?"
"Nearly all, my dear," was the reply, accompanied by a cheerful
smile, for Anko was proud of his great length. "But not quite all. Some
of me remained, as usual, to keep house while my head was away. But I've
been coiling up ever since we started back, and you will soon be able to
see every inch of me all together."
Even as he spoke, his head slid into the round hole, and at a
signal from Aquareine they all paused outside and waited. Presently there
came to them four beautiful winged fishes with faces like doll babies.
Their long hair and eyelashes were of a purple color, and their cheeks had
rosy spots that looked as if they had been painted upon them. "His Majesty
bids you welcome," said one of the doll fishes in a sweet voice. "Be kind
enough to enter the royal palace, and our ocean monarch will graciously
"Seems to me," said Trot to the queen, "these things are putting
on airs. Perhaps they don't know we're friends of Anko."
"The king insists on certain formalities when anyone visits him,"
was Aquareine's reply. "It is right that his dignity should be
They followed their winged conductors to one of the upper
openings, and as they entered it Aquareine said in a clear voice, "May the
glory and power of the ocean king continue forever!" Then she touched the
palm of her hand to her forehead in token of allegiance, and Clia did the
same, so Cap'n Bill and Trot followed suit. The brief ceremony being
ended, the child looked curiously around to see what the palace of the
mighty Anko was like.
An extensive hall lined with alabaster was before them. In the
floor were five of the round holes. Upon the walls were engraved many
interesting scenes of ocean life, all chiseled very artistically by the
tusks of walruses who, Trot was afterward informed, are greatly skilled in
such work. A few handsome rugs of woven sea grasses were spread upon the
floor, but otherwise the vast hall was bare of furniture. The doll-faced
fishes escorted them to an upper room where a table was set, and here the
revelers were invited to refresh themselves. As all four were exceedingly
hungry, they welcomed the repast, which was served by an army of lobsters
in royal purple aprons and caps.
The meal being finished, they again descended to the hall, which
seemed to occupy all the middle of the building. And now their conductors
said, "His Majesty is ready to receive you in his den."
They swam downward through one of the round holes in the floor and
found themselves in a brilliantly lighted chamber which appeared bigger
than all the rest of the palace put together. In the center was the
quaint head of King Anko, and around it was spread a great coverlet of
purple and gold woven together. This concealed all of his body and
stretched from wall to wall of the circular room. "Welcome, friends!"
said Anko pleasantly. "How do you like my home?"
"It's very grand," replied Trot.
"Just the place for a sea serpent, seems to me," said Cap'n Bill.
"I'm glad you admire it," said the King. "Perhaps I ought to tell
you that from this day you four belong to me."
"How's that?" asked the girl, surprised.
"It is a law of the ocean," declared Anko, "that whoever saves any
living creature from violent death owns that creature forever afterward,
while life lasts. You will realize how just this law is when you remember
that had I not saved you from Zog, you would now be dead. The law was
suggested by Captain Kid Glove, when he once visited me."
"Do you mean Captain Kidd?" asked Trot. "Because if you do--"
"Give him his full name," said Anko. "Captain Kid Glove was--"
"There's no glove to it," protested Trot. "I ought to know,
'cause I've read about him."
"Didn't it say anything about a glove?" asked Anko.
"Nothing at all. It jus' called him Cap'n Kidd," replied Trot.
"She's right, ol' man," added Cap'n Bill.
"Books," said the Sea Serpent, "are good enough as far as they go,
but it seems to me your earth books don't go far enough. Captain Kid
Glove was a gentleman pirate, a kid-glove pirate. To leave off the glove
and call him just Kidd is very disrespectful."
"Oh! You told me to remind you of that third pain," said the
"Which proves my friendship for you," returned the Sea Serpent,
blinking his blue eyes thoughtfully. "No one likes to be reminded of a
pain, and that third pain was--was--"
"What was it?" asked Trot.
"It was a stomach ache," replied the King with a sigh.
"What made it?" she inquired.
"Just my carelessness," said Anko. "I'd been away to foreign
parts, seeing how the earth people were getting along. I found the
Germans dancing the german and the Dutch making dutch cheese and the
Belgians combing their belgian hares and the Turks eating turkey and the
Sardinians sardonically pickling sardines. Then I called on the Prince of
"You mean the Prince of Wales," corrected Trot.
"I mean what I say, my dear. I saw the battlefield where the Bull
Run but the Americans didn't, and when I got to France I paid a napoleon
to see Napoleon with his boney apart. He was--"
"Of course you mean--" Trot was beginning, but the king would not
give her a chance to correct him this time.
"He was very hungry for Hungary," he continued, "and was Russian
so fast toward the Poles that I thought he'd discover them. So as I was
not accorded a royal welcome, I took French leave and came home again."
"But the pain--"
"On the way home," continued Anko calmly, "I was a little
absent-minded and ate an anchor. There was a long chain attached to it,
and as I continued to swallow the anchor I continued to eat the chain. I
never realized what I had done until I found a ship on the other end of
the chain. Then I bit it off."
"The ship?" asked Trot.
"No, the chain. I didn't care for the ship, as I saw it contained
some skippers. On the way home the chain and anchor began to lie heavily
on my stomach. I didn't seem to digest them properly, and by the time I
got to my palace, where you will notice there is no throne, I was thrown
into throes of severe pain. So I at once sent for Dr. Shark--"
"Are all your doctors sharks?" asked the child.
"Yes, aren't your doctors sharks?" he replied.
"Not all of them," said Trot.
"That is true," remarked Cap'n Bill. "But when you talk of
"I'm not talking of lawyers," said Anko reprovingly. "I'm talking
about my pain. I don't imagine anyone could suffer more than I did with
that stomach ache."
"Did you suffer long?" inquired Trot.
"Why, about seven thousand four hundred and eighty-two feet and--"
"I mean a long time."
"It seemed like a long time," answered the King. "Dr. Shark said
I ought to put a mustard poultice on my stomach, so I uncoiled myself and
summoned my servants, and they began putting on the mustard plaster. It
had to be bound all around me so it wouldn't slip off, and I began to look
like an express package. In about four weeks fully one-half of the pain
had been covered by the mustard poultice, which got so hot that it hurt me
worse than the stomach ache did."
"I know," said Trot. "I had one, once."
"One what?" asked Anko.
"A mustard plaster. They smart pretty bad, but I guess they're a
"I got myself unwrapped as soon as I could," continued the King,
"and then I hunted for the doctor, who hid himself until my anger had
subsided. He has never sent in a bill, so I think he must be terribly
ashamed of himself."
"You're lucky, sir, to have escaped so easy," said Cap'n Bill.
"But you seem pretty well now."
"Yes, I'm more careful of what I eat," replied the Sea Serpent.
"But I was saying when Trot interrupted me, that you all belong to me,
because I have saved your lives. By the law of the ocean, you must obey
me in everything."
The sailor scowled a little at hearing this, but Trot laughed and
said, "The law of the ocean isn't OUR law, 'cause we live on land."
"Just now you are living in the ocean," declared Anko, "and as
long as you live here, you must obey my commands."
"What are your commands?" inquired the child.
"Ah, that's the point I was coming to," returned the King with his
comical smile. "The ocean is a beautiful place, and we who belong here
love it dearly. In many ways it's a nicer place for a home than the
earth, for we have no sunstroke, mosquitoes, earthquakes or candy ships to
bother us. But I am convinced that the ocean is no proper dwelling place
for earth people, and I believe the mermaids did an unwise thing when they
invited you to visit them."
"I don't," protested the girl. "We've had a fine time, haven't
we, Cap'n Bill?"
"Well, it's been diff'rent from what I expected," admitted the
"Our only thought was to give the earth people pleasure, your
Majesty," pleaded Aquareine.
"I know, I know, my dear Queen, and it was very good of you,"
replied Anko. "But still it was an unwise act, for earth people are as
constantly in danger under water as we would be upon the land. So having
won the right to command you all, I order you to take little Mayre and
Cap'n Bill straight home, and there restore them to their natural forms.
It's a dreadful condition, I know, and they must each have two stumbling
legs instead of a strong, beautiful fish tail, but it is the fate of earth
dwellers, and they cannot escape it."
"In my case, your Majesty, make it ONE leg," suggested Cap'n Bill.
"Ah yes, I remember. One leg and a wooden stick to keep it
company. I issue this order, dear friends, not because I am not fond of
your society, but to keep you from getting into more trouble in a country
where all is strange and unnatural to you. Am I right, or do you think I
"You're quite correct, sir," said Cap'n Bill, nodding his head in
"Well, I'm ready to go home," said Trot. "But in spite of Zog,
I've enjoyed my visit, and I shall always love the mermaids for being so
good to me." That speech pleased Aquareine and Clia, who smiled upon the
child and kissed her affectionately.
"We shall escort you home at once," announced the Queen.
"But before you go," said King Anko, "I will give you a rare
treat. It is one you will remember as long as you live. You shall see
every inch of the mightiest sea serpent in the world, all at one time!"
As he spoke, the purple and gold cloth was lifted by unseen hands
and disappeared from view. And now Cap'n Bill and Trot looked down upon
thousands and thousands of coils of the sea serpent's body, which filled
all of the space at the bottom of the immense circular room. It reminded
them of a great coil of garden hose, only it was so much bigger around and
very much longer.
Except for the astonishing size of the Ocean King, the sight was
not an especially interesting one, but they told old Anko that they were
pleased to see him, because it was evident he was very fond of his figure.
Then the cloth descended again and covered all but the head, after which
they bade the king goodbye and thanked him for all his kindness to them.
"I used to think sea serpents were horrid creatures," said Trot,
"but now I know they are good and--and--and--"
"And big," added Cap'n Bill, realizing his little friend could not
find another word that was complimentary.
As they swam out of Anko's palace and the doll-faced fishes left
them, Aquareine asked, "Would you rather go back to our mermaid home for a
time and rest yourselves or would you prefer to start for Giant's Cave at
"I guess we'd better go back home," decided Trot. "To our own
home, I mean. We've been away quite a while, and King Anko seemed to
think it was best."
"Very well," replied the Queen. "Let us turn in this direction,
"You can say goodbye to Merla for us," continued Trot. "She was
very nice to us, an' 'specially to Cap'n Bill."
"So she was, mate," agreed the sailor, "an' a prettier lady I
never knew, even if she is a mermaid, beggin' your pardon, ma'am."
"Are we going anywhere near Zog's castle?" asked the girl.
"Our way leads directly past the opening in the dome," said
"Then let's stop and see what Sacho and the others are doing,"
suggested Trot. "They can't be slaves any longer, you know, 'cause they
haven't any master. I wonder if they're any happier than they were
"They seemed to be pretty happy as it was," remarked Cap'n Bill.
"It will do no harm to pay them a brief visit," said Princess
Clia. "All danger disappeared from the cavern with the destruction of
"I really ought to say goodbye to Brother Joe," observed the
sailor man. "I won't see him again, you know, and I don't want to seem
"Very well," said the Queen, "we will reenter the cavern, for I,
too, am anxious to know what will be the fate of the poor slaves of the
When they came to the hole in the top of the dome, they dropped
through it and swam leisurely down toward the castle. The water was clear
and undisturbed and the silver castle looked very quiet and peaceful under
the radiant light that still filled the cavern. They met no one at all,
and passing around to the front of the building, they reached the broad
entrance and passed into the golden hall.
Here a strange scene met their eyes. All the slaves of Zog,
hundreds in number, were assembled in the room, while standing before the
throne formerly occupied by the wicked magician was the boy Sacho, who was
just beginning to make a speech to his fellow slaves. "At one time or
another," he said, "all of us were born upon the earth and lived in the
thin air, but now we are all living as the fishes live, and our home is in
the water of the ocean. One by one we have come to this place, having
been saved from drowning by Zog, the Magician, and by him given power to
exist in comfort under water. The powerful master who made us his slaves
has now passed away forever, but we continue to live, and are unable to
return to our native land, where we would quickly perish. There is no one
but us to inherit Zog's possessions, and so it will be best for us to
remain in this fine castle and occupy ourselves as we have done before, in
providing for the comforts of the community. Only in labor is happiness
to be found, and we may as well labor for ourselves as for others.
"But we must have a king. Not an evil, cruel master like Zog, but
one who will maintain order and issue laws for the benefit of all. We
will govern ourselves most happily by having a ruler, or head, selected
from among ourselves by popular vote. Therefore I ask you to decide who
shall be our king, for only one who is accepted by all can sit in Zog's
The slaves applauded this speech, but they seemed puzzled to make
the choice of a ruler. Finally the chief cook came forward and said, "We
all have our duties to perform and so cannot spend the time to be king.
But you, Sacho, who were Zog's own attendant, have now no duties at all.
So it will be best for you to rule us. What say you, comrades? Shall we
make Sacho king?"
"Yes, yes!" they all cried.
"But I do not wish to be king," replied Sacho. "A king is a
useless sort of person who merely issues orders for others to carry out. I
want to be busy and useful. Whoever is king will need a good attendant as
well as an officer who will see that his commands are obeyed. I am used
to such duties, having served Zog in this same way."
"Who, then, has the time to rule over us?" asked Agga-Groo, the
"It seems to me that Cap'n Joe is the proper person for king,"
replied Sacho. "His former duty was to sew buttons on Zog's garments, so
now he is out of a job and has plenty of time to be king, for he can sew
on his own buttons. What do you say, Cap'n Joe?"
"Oh, I don't mind," agreed Cap'n Joe. "That is, if you all want
me to rule you."
"We do!" shouted the slaves, glad to find someone willing to take
"But I'll want a few pointers," continued Cap'n Bill's brother.
"I ain't used to this sort o' work, you know, an' if I ain't properly
posted I'm liable to make mistakes."
"Sacho will tell you," said Tom Atto encouragingly. "and now I
must go back to the kitchen and look after my dumplings, or you people
won't have any dinner today."
"Very well," announced Sacho. "I hereby proclaim Cap'n Joe
elected King of the Castle, which is the Enchanted Castle no longer. You
may all return to your work."
The slaves went away well contented, and the boy and Cap'n Joe now
came forward to greet their visitors. "We're on our way home," explained
Cap'n Bill, "an' we don't expec' to travel this way again. But it pleases
me to know, Joe, that you're the king o' such a fine castle, an' I'll rest
easier now that you're well pervided for."
"Oh, I'm all right, Bill," returned Cap'n Joe. "It's an easy life
here, an' a peaceful one. I wish you were as well fixed."
"If ever you need friends, Sacho, or any assistance or counsel,
come to me," said the Mermaid Queen to the boy.
"Thank you, madam," he replied. "Now that Zog has gone, I am sure
we shall be very safe and contented. But I shall not forget to come to
you if we need you. We are not going to waste any time in anger or
revenge or evil deeds, so I believe we shall prosper from now on."
"I'm sure you will," declared Trot.
They now decided that they must continue their journey, and as
neither Sacho nor King Joe could ascend to the top of the dome without
swimming in the human way, which was slow and tedious work for them, the
goodbyes were said at the castle entrance, andthe four visitors started on
their return. Trot took one last view of the beautiful silver castle from
the hole high up in the dome, which was now open and unguarded, and the
next moment she was in the broad ocean again, swimming toward home beside
her mermaid friends.
Aquareine was thoughtful for a time. Then she drew from her
finger a ring, a plain gold band set with a pearl of great value, and gave
it to the little girl. "If at any period of your life the mermaids can be
of service to you, my dear," she said, "you have but to come to the edge
of the ocean and call 'Aquareine.' If you are wearing the ring at the
time, I shall instantly hear you and come to your assistance."
"Thank you!" cried the child, slipping the ring over her own
chubby finger, which it fitted perfectly. "I shall never forget that I
have good and loyal friends in the ocean, you may be sure."
Away and away they swam, swiftly and in a straight line, keeping
in the middle water where they were not liable to meet many sea people.
They passed a few schools of fishes, where the teachers were explaining to
the young ones how to swim properly, and to conduct themselves in a
dignified manner, but Trot did not care to stop and watch the exercises.
Although the queen had lost her fairy wand in Zog's domed chamber,
she had still enough magic power to carry them all across the ocean in
wonderfully quick time, and before Trot and Cap'n Bill were aware of the
distance they had come, the mermaids paused while Princess Clia said, "Now
we must go a little deeper, for here is the Giant's Cave and the entrance
to it is near the bottom of the sea."
"What, already?" cried the girl joyfully, and then through the
dark water they swam, passing through the rocky entrance, and began to
ascend slowly into the azure-blue water of the cave. "You've been awfully
good to us, and I don't know jus' how to thank you," said Trot earnestly.
"We have enjoyed your visit to us," said beautiful Queen
Aquareine, smiling upon her little friend, "and you may easily repay any
pleasure we have given you by speaking well of the mermaids when you hear
ignorant earth people condemning us."
"I'll do that, of course," exclaimed the child.
"How about changin' us back to our reg'lar shapes?" inquired Cap'n
"That will be very easy," replied Princess Clia with her merry
laugh. "See! Here we are at the surface of the water."
They pushed their heads above the blue water and looked around the
cave. It was silent and deserted. Floating gently near the spot where
they had left it was their own little boat. Cap'n Bill swam to it, took
hold of the side, and then turned an inquiring face toward the mermaids.
"Climb in," said the Queen. So he pulled himself up and awkwardly tumbled
forward into the boat. As he did so, he heard his wooden leg clatter
against the seat, and turned around to look at it wonderingly.
"It's me, all right!" he muttered. "One meat one, an' one hick'ry
one. That's the same as belongs to me!"
"Will you lift Mayre aboard?" asked Princess Clia.
The old sailor aroused himself, and as Trot lifted up her arms, he
seized them and drew her safely into the boat. She was dressed just as
usual, and her chubby legs wore shoes and stockings. Strangely enough,
neither of them were at all wet or even damp in any part of their
clothing. "I wonder where our legs have been while we've been gone?"
mused Cap'n Bill, gazing at his little friend in great delight.
"And I wonder what's become of our pretty pink and green scaled
tails!" returned the girl, laughing with glee, for it seemed good to be
Queen Aquareine and Princess Clia were a little way off, lying
with their pretty faces just out of the water while their hair floated in
soft clouds around them. "Goodbye, friends!" they called.
"Goodbye!" shouted both Trot and Cap'n Bill, and the little girl
blew two kisses from her fingers toward the mermaids. Then the faces
disappeared, leaving little ripples on the surface of the water. Cap'n
Bill picked up the oars and slowly headed the boat toward the mouth of the
"I wonder, Trot, if your ma has missed us," he remarked uneasily.
"Of course not," replied the girl. "She's been sound asleep, you
As the boat crept out into the bright sunlight, they were both
silent, but each sighed with pleasure at beholding their own everyday
world again. Finally Trot said softly, "The land's the best, Cap'n."
"It is, mate, for livin' on," he answered.
"But I'm glad to have seen the mermaids," she added..
"Well, so'm I, Trot," he agreed. "But I wouldn't 'a' believed any
mortal could ever 'a' seen 'em an'--an'--"
Trot laughed merrily. "An' lived to tell the tale!" she cried,
her eyes dancing with mischief. "Oh, Cap'n Bill, how little we mortals
"True enough, mate," he replied, "but we're a-learnin' something