**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


by [?]

The green sea-water was the sky, and ships cast their shadows like clouds over the twilight world below. Several gray-bearded old mermen sat meditating in nooks among the rocks, and a few mermaids lay asleep in the great oyster-shells that opened to receive them and their beds of sea-weed. A soft murmur was in the air like the sound one hears in shells, and nowhere did Nelly see any toys or food or fun of any sort.

“Is this the way you live?” she asked, trying not to show how disappointed she was.

“Isn’t it lovely?” answered Goldfin. “This is my bed, and you shall have the shell between Silver-tail and me. See! it is lined with mother-of-pearl, and has a soft cushion of our best sea-weeds to lie on.”

“Are you hungry?” asked Silver-tail. “Come and have some shrimps for dinner,–I know a fine place for them,–or oysters if you like them better.”

Nelly was ready to eat anything, the sea air had given her such a fine appetite; so they swam away to gather the pretty pink shrimps in scallop shells, as little girls gather strawberries in baskets; then they sat down to eat them, and Nelly longed for bread and butter, but dared not say so. She was so surprised at all she saw, that this queer, cold lunch was soon forgotten in the wonderful tales the mermaids told her, as they cracked snails and ate them like nuts, or pulled the green sea-apples tasting like pickled limes from the vines that climbed up the rocks.

“You don’t seem to have a very large family, or have the others gone to a party somewhere?” asked Nelly, rather tired of the quiet.

“No; there never are many of us. A new brood will be out soon, and then there will be some little mer-babies to play with. We will show you the Wonder-tree, if you are done eating, and tell you all about it,” answered Silver-tail, floating away with a wave of the hand.

Nelly and Goldfin followed to a lonely place, where a tall plant grew up from the sand till its branches reached the air above and spread out like floating weeds covered with little pods like those we often snap under our feet as they lie dry upon the beach.

“Only a few of these will bloom; for there never are many mermaids in the sea, you know. It takes long for the tree to reach the light, and it cannot blossom unless the full moon shines on it at midnight; then these buds open, and the water-babies swim away to grow up like us,” said Silver-tail.

“Without any nurses to take care of them, or mothers to pet them?” asked Nelly, thinking of the pretty baby at home with whom she was so fond of playing.

“They take care of themselves, and when there are too many in one place the old mermen send away some to another ocean; so we get on quietly, and there is room for all,” said Goldfin, contentedly.

“And when you die, what happens?” asked Nelly, much interested in these queer creatures.

“Oh, we grow older and grayer and sit still in a corner till we turn to stone and help make these rocks. I’ve been told by Barnacle, the old one yonder, that people sometimes find marks of our hands or heads or fins in the stone, and are very much puzzled to know what kind of fish or animal made the prints; that is one of our jokes;” and both the mermaids laughed as if they enjoyed bewildering the wits of the people who were so much wiser than they.

“Well, I think it is much nicer to be buried under grass and flowers when our souls have flown away to heaven,” said Nelly, beginning to be glad she was not a “truly” mermaid.

“What is heaven?” asked Silver-tail, stupidly.

“You would not understand if I tried to tell you. I can only say it is a lovely place where we go when we die, and the angels don’t puzzle over us at all, but love us and are glad to see us come,” said Nelly, soberly.