The Sea Fairies

Page 24

"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 creatures."

"OctoPI, if you please; octoPI," said the monster with a laugh.

"I don't see any pie that pleases me," replied Trot, beginning to get angry.

"OctoPUS means one of us; two or more are called octoPI," remarked the creature, as if correcting her speech.

"I suppose a lot of you would be a whole bakery!" she said scornfully.

"Our name is Latin. It was given to us by learned scientists years ago," said the Octopus."

"That's true enough," agreed Cap'n Bill. "The learned scientists named ev'ry blamed thing they come across, an' gener'ly they picked out names as nobody could understand or pernounce."

"That isn't our fault, sir," said the Octopus. "Indeed, it's pretty hard for us to go through life with such terrible names. Think of the poor little seahorse. He used to be a merry and cheerful fellow, but since they named him 'hippocampus' he hasn't smiled once."

"Let's go," said Trot. "I don't like to 'sociate with octopuses."

"OctoPI," said the creature, again correcting her.

"You're jus' as horrid whether you're puses or pies," she declared.

"Horrid!" cried the monster in a shocked tone of voice.

"Not only horrid, but horrible!" persisted the girl.

"May I ask in what way?" he inquired, and it was easy to see he was offended.

"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 devils."

"Oh. Are the sea devils their cousins?" asked Trot.

"Yes, and they are the only creatures of the ocean which we greatly fear," replied Aquareine. "I hope we shall meet none today, for we are going near to the dismal caverns where they live."

"What are the sea devils like, ma'am?" inquired Cap'n Bill a little uneasily.

"Something like the octopus you just saw, only much larger and of a bright scarlet color, striped with black," answered the Queen. "They are very fierce and terrible creatures and nearly as much dreaded by the inhabitants of the ocean as is Zog, and nearly as powerful as King Anko himself."

"Zog! Who is Zog?" questioned the girl. "I haven't heard of him before now."

"We do not like to mention Zog's name," responded the Queen in a low voice. "He is the wicked genius of the sea, and a magician of great power."

"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.

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