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 perfect confidence.
"Am I to have the Magic Circle drawn around me, too?" asked Cap'n Bill.
"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 return."
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.
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.