The Sea FairiesL. Frank Baum / Fantasy
Produced by Charles Aldarondo. HTML version by Al Haines.
TO JUDITH OF RANDOLPH MASSACHUSETTS
THE SEA FAIRIES
BY L. FRANK BAUM
AUTHOR OF THE EMERALD CITY OF OZ, DOROTHY AND THEWIZARD IN OZ, OZMA OF OZ, THE ROAD TO OZ,THE LAND OF OZ, ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BYJOHN R. NEILL
THE oceans are big and broad. I believe two-thirds of theearth's surface is covered with water. What people inhabitthis water has always been a subject of curiosity to theinhabitants of the land. Strange creatures come from the seasat times, and perhaps in the ocean depths are many, more strangethan mortal eye has ever gazed upon.
This story is fanciful. In it the sea people talk and actmuch as we do, and the mermaids especially are not unlike thefairies with whom we have learned to be familiar. Yet theyare real sea people, for all that, and with the exception of Zogthe Magician they are all supposed to exist in the ocean's depths.
I am told that some very learned people deny that mermaidsor sea-serpents have ever inhabited the oceans, but it would bevery difficult for them to prove such an assertion unless they hadlived under the water as Trot and Cap'n Bill did in this story.
I hope my readers who have so long followed Dorothy'sadventures in the Land of Oz will be interested in Trot's equallystrange experiences. The ocean has always appealed to me asa veritable wonderland, and this story has been suggested to memany times by my young correspondents in their letters. Indeed,a good many children have implored me to write somethingabout the mermaids, and I have willingly granted the request.
L. FRANK BAUM.
LIST OF CHAPTERS
1 TROT AND CAP'N BILL 2 THE MERMAIDS 3 THE DEPTHS OF THE DEEP BLUE SEA 4 THE PALACE OF QUEEN AQUAREINE 5 THE SEA-SERPENT 6 EXPLORING THE OCEAN 7 THE ARISTOCRATIC CODFISH 8 A BANQUET UNDER WATER 9 THE BASHFUL OCTOPUS 10 THE UNDISCOVERED ISLAND 11 ZOG THE TERRIBLE AND HIS SEA DEVILS 12 THE ENCHANTED ISLAND 13 PRISONERS OF THE SEA MONSTER 14 CAP'N JOE AND CAP'N BILL 15 THE MAGIC OF THE MERMAIDS 16 THE TOP OF THE GREAT DOME 17 THE QUEEN'S GOLDEN SWORD 18 A DASH FOR LIBERTY 19 KING ANKO TO THE RESCUE 20 THE HOME OF THE OCEAN MONARCH 21 KING JOE 22 TROT LIVES TO TELL THE TALE
TROT AND CAP'N BILL
Nobody, said Cap'n Bill solemnly, ever sawr a mermaid an' livedto tell the tale.
Why not? asked Trot, looking earnestly up into the old sailor'sface.
They were seated on a bench built around a giant acacia tree thatgrew just at the edge of the bluff. Below them rolled the blue wavesof the great Pacific. A little way behind them was the house, a neatframe cottage painted white and surrounded by huge eucalyptus andpepper trees. Still farther behind that--a quarter of a mile distantbut built upon a bend of the coast--was the village, overlooking apretty bay.
Cap'n Bill and Trot came often to this tree to sit and watch theocean below them. The sailor man had one meat leg and one hickoryleg, and he often said the wooden one was the best of the two. OnceCap'n Bill had commanded and owned the Anemone, a trading schoonerthat plied along the coast; and in those days Charlie Griffiths, whowas Trot's father, had been the Captain's mate. But ever since Cap'nBill's accident, when he lost his leg, Charlie Griffiths had beenthe captain of the little schooner while his old master livedpeacefully ashore with the Griffiths family.
This was about the time Trot was born, and the old sailor becamevery fond of the baby girl. Her real name was Mayre, but when shegrew big enough to walk, she took so many busy little steps everyday that both her mother and Cap'n Bill nicknamed her Trot, and soshe was thereafter mostly called.
It was the old sailor who taught the child to love the sea, to loveit almost as much as he and her father did, and these two, whorepresented the beginning and the end of life, became firm friendsand constant companions.
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 mortalfolk, 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 'ema 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 divein the water when the mermaids smile an' wink? she asked.
Mermaids, he said gravely, is the most beautiful creatures in theworld--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 theother half of 'em's a fish, with green an' purple an' pink scalesall down it.
Have they got arms, Cap'n Bill?
'Course, Trot; arms like any other lady. An' pretty faces thatsmile an' look mighty sweet an' fetchin'. Their hair is long an'soft an' silky, an' floats all around 'em in the water. When theycomes up atop the waves, they wring the water out'n their hair andsing songs that go right to your heart. If anybody is unlucky enoughto be 'round jes' then, the beauty o' them mermaids an' their sweetsongs charm 'em like magic; so's they plunge into the waves to getto the mermaids. But the mermaids haven't any hearts, Trot, nomore'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 nobodynever sawr a mermaid an' lived to tell the tale.
Nobody? asked Trot.
Nobody a tall.
Then how do you know, Cap'n Bill? asked the little girl, lookingup into his face with big, round eyes.
Cap'n Bill coughed. Then he tried to sneeze, to gain time. Then hetook out his red cotton handkerchief and wiped his bald head withit, rubbing hard so as to make him think clearer. Look, Trot; ain'tthat a brig out there? he inquired, pointing to a sail far out inthe sea.
How does anybody know about mermaids if those who have seen themnever lived to tell about them? she asked again.
Know what about 'em, Trot?
About their green and pink scales and pretty songs and wet hair.
They don't know, I guess. But mermaids jes' natcherly has to belike that, or they wouldn't be mermaids.
She thought this over. Somebody MUST have lived, Cap'n Bill, shedeclared positively. Other fairies have been seen by mortals; whynot mermaids?
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 toinquire into the matter so close before. Seems like folks wouldn'tknow so much about mermaids if they hadn't seen 'em; an' yetaccordin' to all accounts the victim is bound to get drownded.
P'raps, suggested Trot softly, someone found a fotygraph of oneof '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 explaineverything so she could fully understand it. The aged sailor was nota very tall man, and some people might have called him chubby, oreven fat. He wore a blue sailor shirt with white anchors worked onthe corners of the broad, square collar, and his blue trousers werevery wide at the bottom. He always wore one trouser leg over hiswooden limb and sometimes it would flutter in the wind like a flagbecause it was so wide and the wooden leg so slender. His roughkersey coat was a pea-jacket and came down to his waistline. In thebig pockets of his jacket he kept a wonderful jackknife, and hispipe and tobacco, and many bits of string, and matches and keys andlots of other things. Whenever Cap'n Bill thrust a chubby hand intoone of his pockets, Trot watched him with breathless interest, forshe never knew what he was going to pull out.
The old sailor's face was brown as a berry. He had a fringe of hairaround the back of his head and a fringe of whisker around the edgeof his face, running from ear to ear and underneath his chin. Hiseyes were light blue and kind in expression. His nose was big andbroad, 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 hiswisdom, and a great admiration for his ability to make tops andwhistles and toys with that marvelous jackknife of his. In thevillage were many boys and girls of her own age, but she never hadas much fun playing with them as she had wandering by the seaaccompanied by the old sailor and listening to his fascinatingstories.
She knew all about the Flying Dutchman, and Davy Jones' Locker, andCaptain Kidd, and how to harpoon a whale or dodge an iceberg orlasso a seal. Cap'n Bill had been everywhere in the world, almost,on his many voyages. He had been wrecked on desert islands likeRobinson Crusoe and been attacked by cannibals, and had a host ofother exciting adventures. So he was a delightful comrade for thelittle girl, and whatever Cap'n Bill knew Trot was sure to know intime.
How do the mermaids live? she asked. Are they in caves, or justin the water like fishes, or how?
Can't say, Trot, he replied. I've asked divers about that, butnone 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 solemnvoice. 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.