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The Sea Fairies

9. The Bashful Octopus
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.
 
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