HERE was a great commotion in the Coral Palace of the Queen of
the Sea. It was very plain that something unusual was
happening in the otherwise peaceful dwelling at the bottom
of the deep blue sea. As a rule, on hot summer evenings, the
Queen reclined lazily on a bed of pink sea-shell, while her
two mermaids-in-waiting stood near her, fanning her with
tall fans, made of sharks' fins, and telling her all the
latest news that occurred among the upper ten of the fish
kingdom. Everything had to be kept very quiet during
that time, as the Queen objected to every kind of noise that
might disturb her, if she chose to take a nap, which she
But on this particular evening the royal palace wore a
totally different aspect; the bed of sea-shell was deserted,
the fans of sharks' fins lay idle on the ground, and not a
fish was visible in any of the pink coral halls.
Stay, that is not quite correct. When I say not a fish could
be seen, I mean not a whole fish, for at every crevice,
every window, and every door, there were rows and rows of
tails, the heads and bodies of their owners being thrust as
 far out as possible.
Apparently they were intent on watching a most amusing
spectacle, for every now and then these tails shook with
suppressed laughter, making the water foam and bubble all
The Queen herself so far forgot her dignity as to sit at a half-opened
window, and gaze out into the blue depths, and clap her
hands with glee, and laugh till the tears streamed down her
What so evidently excited the mirth of her Majesty and all
her subjects was certainly, to any impartial observer, a
most amusing sight. Under the shades of the giant seaweed,
in the grounds of the Coral Palace, Mr. Cuttlefish
was making love to dear little Marina, the Queen's
favourite mermaid, whose amorous glances quite equalled his
own. He rolled his great goggle eyes at her, and surrounded
her graceful little form with five of his long arms.
"My dearest, I am afraid we must part," she was saying
to him, "and I don't think I can possibly meet you out here
again. I am sure some one will see us; the Palace is so
near and the windows of the great hall look out on this part
of the grounds, and," she added, kissing his great puffy cheek,
"I know the Queen will never consent to our marriage;
you have no appointment at court, and your business
compels you to live in quite another part of the sea. I must
remain near the Queen, or by our laws I should lose the
human half of my body and become a fish altogether, probably
a sole, or some other nasty flat thing. What a cone-down for me,
dear. I have always been accounted so sharp."
Mr. Cuttlefish did not appreciate jokes which were not his
own, and would have adminstered a severe rebuke to Marina
for venturing to make one at so serious a moment.
She, however, looked so pretty, and was evidently so much
in love with him, poor dear, that he merely withdrew two or
three of his arms from round
her waist to show his displeasure.
This act of unnecessary cruelty brought tears to
the eyes of poor little Marina.
"Well, my dear," he said, when harmony was once more
restored between them, "you must try and find out whether
there is not some good appointment vacant at Court,
and I will immediately apply for and obtain it. There were
several reasons why I withdrew myself from Court life
altogether . . . Ahem! . . . I
will leave you to guess these reasons, dear Marina . . .
As a matter of fact Her Majesty herself . . . ahem!
. . . lately intimated to her subjects her desire
for a fitting helpmate through
the cares of State . . . ahem! . . .
and when she announced this intention in
public . . . ahem! . . . ahem!"
"Well! ahem! . . . you won't be jealous, dear
"Well! the fact is," said Mr. Cuttlefish, now blushing to
the tips of his fingers, or rather suckers, "that Her
Majesty deigned to cast eyes of approval on one of her
subjects whom modesty forbids me to name."
"Oh," said Marina, clasping her hands in awed reverence,
"then you would be king of us all."
"Well; yes! my dear, I believe that would have been my
position," said Mr. Cuttlefish, modestly covering his eyes
with an arm or two and wiping a humble tear.
"What was that?" he added, in sudden alarm, as a loud
 peal of irrepressible laughter from the hidden spectators of
this dainty scene echoed through the grounds.
"Nothing, my dearest, only a difference of opinion, I
expect, between two pikes in Her Majesty's kitchen; they
never can agree over the way in which a minnow should be
sliced, and quarrel over it in a most rowdy manner."
Mr. Cuttlefish thought to himself that he would not even
slice a pike for that matter, but said nothing. Suddenly
little Marina had an idea.
"I'll tell you what, dear Mr. Cuttlefish, I believe there
is a vacant appointment at Court, it is a very lucrative one
I know, and one to which, I think, you are peculiarly
Her Majesty's Royal Musician died the other day; one of the
choir swallowed him accidentally while singing a bass solo.
I know you have great talent for music, and, you see, none
of your choir could possibly succeed in swallowing you."
"That is so," said Mr. Cuttlefish, "and how do you think I
could best succeed in obtaining this appointment?"
"By thoroughly convincing the Queen of your musical
capabilities. I should say if you could get an
orchestra together, and a few soloists, you might obtain
permission to perform before Her Majesty—that is,"
added little Marina, "if your modesty will allow you to stand
once more before her after the forward advances she made to you."
 At this point the laughter in the palace became so
uproarious, that all the sea around became a wilderness of
foam and bubbles. Little Marina ran home in dismay,
terrified lest she should have been seen; and Mr. Cuttlefish
sailed away more rapidly than dignity
generally allows. Modesty had now got the better of him and
he thought it
prudent to retire for the night to his cavern between the rocks.
The next day all was quiet
and peaceful in the beautiful kingdom under the sea. The
light shone like brilliant emeralds through the water,
illuminating the coral grottoes, and lighting their
fantastic forms with
innumerable points of glittering sparks. The great branches
of giant seaweed waved to and fro with slow rhythmic
cadence, and the ribbon-weed floated gracefully, forming
myriads of little ripples.
There was a general air of festivity pervading the whole
of the royal palace.
Every little fish seemed to have donned his
 gayest colours, and all the crabs and the lobsters
seemed to have assumed an air of being very busy and pressed
Suddenly a most singular sound echoed through all the
neighbouring caverns, and caused a general commotion in the
waters. It penetrated as far as the Queen's bed-chamber,
where her Majesty was enjoying a quiet rest while reflecting
over the events of the night before. She had forbidden
all her Court to make the slightest allusion to them before
her little mermaid, as it might distress her to feel that
she and her lover had been
so openly laughed at. She was a dear, kind-hearted sort of
Queen, and really very fond of little Marina, so she
determined to smooth the path of true love as much as lay
in her power.
In the meantime the noise was growing louder and louder, and
more and more distinct. Now it resembled a grampus blowing
through his nose, and now it seemed like a
hundred engines letting steam off all at once. At last an
unusually discordant note resounded through the royal
bedchamber, and Her Majesty, now fully aroused, and not at
all pleased at being disturbed in her nap, dispatched an
attendant crab to inquire the cause of this extraordinary
commotion. He came back with the startling news that
Mr. Cuttlefish was preparing for a grand concert, which he
proposed to give that very afternoon.
"But," said the Queen, addressing no once in particular,
"I did not know the gentleman was musical."
 "He is not," said an old thornback, spitefully, "but he
fancies he is, and likes to be thought a distinguished
amateur and musical critic. He wrote a very severe
article in the
'Fly Fancier's Gazette' on the subject of your Majesty's
"In which," said the nautilus, indignantly, "he
disapproved of my voice."
"And distinctly hinted that we sang flat," exclaimed the
chorus of crabs.
"And," added the oysters, opening their shells, and looking
defiantly round, "that we have no notion of time."
A wail of indignation rose at these complaints against Mr.
Cuttlefish. However, the Queen was determined to try and
make matters as pleasant for Marina as possible,
and influence public opinion in her lover's favour as far as
she could. She wished to hear more about the concert.
"May it please your Majesty," said a little bony fish, who
seemed well posted up in all the news, "Mr. Cuttlefish
issued cards of invitation early this morning, but the Grand
Chamberlain, the Right Honourable Tortoise, who is offended
with him about something or other, has evidently withheld
your Majesty's card. As for me, I shall certainly not
go, he does not mention the word supper,
and I don't believe there
will be any." While all this
was going on poor little Marina felt
 on thorns, she grew hot and cold alternately, and
hardly knew how to hold herself erect
on her tail, while fanning the Queen. The concert
was evidently now in full swing, the waters around
were continually disturbed by
crowds of fishes trooping to join in it, and carrying their
cards of invitation under their fins; the Queen was
now quite unable to check her curiosity any longer, and
gracious intention to honour the concert by her august
Lord Chamberlain Tortoise, who had been simply dying to go
himself, but, of course, did not dare show his eagerness
before Her Majesty, now stalked off in high glee to order
the royal mermen, who always conveyed the Queen, to be in
Her Majesty mounted one of them while another swam in front,
both blowing a shell trumpet; Marina and the other little
seamaids brought up the rear, carrying the
fans, handkerchiefs and smelling salts. On seeing the Queen
approach, Mr. Cuttlefish bade the music cease, then rose
with great ceremony and bowed three
times, as did all the other fishes present, while the
oysters, whose absence of legs forbade them to bow,
clapped their shells respectfully.
Mr. Cuttlefish extended
one of his arms and, taking the queen's hand, led her to a seat
on a large green rock,
covered with beautiful anemones. Seating himself,
with a look at Marina, which conveyed to her the
expression of his endless love, he took a great trumpet
in one hand, seized a drumstick in another, a pair of
cymbals and a concertina in four more. A large lobster
then gravely announced that Mr. Cuttlefish would play a
grand march, composed by himself, entitled "The good old
Sharks," and would be assisted in the performance by a full
choir, selected and trained by himself.
 The words and music were alike
impressive, the orchestration
eminently modern, and the chorus written in
four parts. Three huge frogs, rolling their goggle eyes,
rolled out the bass, the herrings
sang alto in sentimental style, the whiting were high treble,
and as they sang
with their tails in their mouths—as all well-regulated
whiting do—their voices had an additional charm. The
moonfish, the trunkfish, the gurnard were all tenors, but
as they had been unavoidably prevented from attending the
rehearsals, their parts did not go very well; however, the
sword-fish, who sang baritone, and the fire-fish, who sang
contralto, managed to drown their mistakes pretty
The conductor was a great green crab, who endeavoured to
keep time by waving his claws; he found this fairly easy
while the slow part of the march was being performed, but in
the more rapid movements no one paid any attention to him,
which somewhat marred the harmony of the whole effect, but
in no way interfered with the enjoyment of the performers.
As for Mr. Cuttlefish's trumpet and big drum, nothing seemed
to drown them, he never ceased blowing the one or beating
the other; though he sometimes disengaged an available arm
to administer an impressive rebuke to any of the chorus who
appeared to slacken energy.
In fact the whole affair was a brilliant success, and when
the piece was over, everybody clapped his shell or his fins,
and congratulated the composer, who took all these honours
with the indifference characteristic of genius.
Her Majesty desired his presence.
Mr. Cuttlefish advanced, and bending exceedingly low, humbly
waited her gracious pleasure.
"We are very pleased with the extraordinary talent, sir,
displayed by you this afternoon; in fact, our royal ears
have never been struck by so large a volume of sound. We
will therefore appoint you our Royal Musician, with a
 salary, and give you the hand of our favourite sea-maiden,
Marina, in marriage."
Mr. Cuttlefish cast a grateful look at his Sovereign, who
taking a shark's fin fan in her hand and smiting him on
top of his bald head, added:
"Rise, Sir Cuttlefish. We confer this honour upon
you for your distinguished talents, and for the pleasure
you have given us this afternoon."
Sir Cuttlefish wished to raise a modest protest against so
much honour, but eventually thought better of it, and
accepted it all with the noble resignation of the really
The lobster now announced a dance, Sir Cuttlefish opened the
ball by standing on his head and whirling all his arms
about till the water foamed, while everybody did their
best to make the evening lively, by turning over and over
and round and round. The shrimps waltzed together, while the
eels curled themselves up first one way and then the other.
When they were all tired out the supper was brought in by
five and twenty green tortoises. It was the most
magnificent repast, consisting of crayfish, minnows, and
some deliciously prepared carp; Sir Cuttlefish ate five
hundred of these, which proved to be an injudicious
quantity. There was a slight stir towards the end of the
supper, caused by the sharks, who had not been invited,
gobbling up some of the company, but, on the whole, the
evening passed off very pleasantly. After supper the
gathering broke up, Sir Cuttlefish seeing the Queen home.
Next day the great composer was suffering from a
 detestable fit of indigestion. The poor Queen had a fearful
headache, but, nevertheless, she had never enjoyed herself
so much in all her life.
The wedding of Sir Cuttlefish and Marina was fixed for an
early date, and the Queen did the bride the great honour of
not only being present at the ceremony, but of
holding a reception at the Palace. All the Court
officials were ordered to be present, and the poor Lord
Chamberlain Tortoise had his hands full, what with issuing
the invitation cards, settling the order of precedence, and
making arrangements for the breakfast. The Queen ordered that
everything should be conducted in the best style, and
expense should be no obstacle to the success of the
Meanwhile, Sir Cuttlefish was busy. He chose the leader of
his choir for his "best fish." Then he ordered the
lobsters to make the ring of pearl, and it took no little
ingenuity on their part to round off and polish it to Sir
Cuttlefish's satisfaction. The happy bridegroom also
presented his bride with a brooch made of sea diamonds, in
shape like a big drum—a perfect work of art—in
commemoration of the great concert that had proved such a
Needless to add, I think, that the deep sea orchestra and
choir played and sang the wedding march and hymns, the new
R. M.—Royal Musician—having drilled them
himself most carefully. On the great day, Sir Cuttlefish got
himself up in most sumptuous style; he had ordered four
pairs of white gloves—you see he had eight arms;
this was looked upon as a piece of most extravagant folly,
 shark (who had not yet got over his annoyance at not being
asked to the concert) made some very unpleasant remarks on
the subject in his paper, "The Fisherman's Foe."
The gorgeousness of the ceremony and the splendour of the
wedding breakfast it were vain to attempt to relate, for they
even threw the glories of the Cuttlefish's concert and fête
into the shade.
The bridegroom borrowed a most beautiful grotto in which to
pass his honeymoon, and also spent much time in having his
own house thoroughly done up and repaired, and
in that newly decorated house under the sea, dear little
readers, we will leave the happy pair, for in it they have
lived in joy and prosperity from that day to this.
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