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 ages.
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 starfish.
"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 with."
"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 wanted?"
"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.