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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/691

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669
LIFE UNDER THE SEA.

brilliant flowers, but of colors so soft and waxlike that they were almost more lovely than our flowers of earth.

"Surely these deep red ones that cover the rocks to the left are a species of aster, and these are cacti, and these, yes, these reddish-brown one are chrysanthemums and nothing else."

But even as we spoke we saw the petals of first one, then another, flower wave back and forth, and in and out, with curious curling movements, as none of our flowers do, even in the most various winds, and then from above a long pole was suddenly thrust down into the water, at the end of which was stuck a piece of raw red meat about as large as a walnut.

It was the keeper come to feed his strange charges. Again and again were the bits of meat thrust down into the hearts of the sea flowers, and then we discovered with a kind of shock that these asters and cacti and chrysanthemums were not flowers at all, but flesh-eating animals, and that each waving petal was a mouth, by which the creature sucked in the blood of the meat.

When all the juice had been extracted from the meat, the many mouths attached to each seeming flower, that had been tightly curled upon the raw flesh, now unfolded again into their petal-like positions in a circle, one over the other, and the meat, now but a tiny ball of dry pulp, slowly sank to the bottom of the tank. What the calyx was like, or whether it had any body at all, we could not see, so entirely hidden was it behind these many waving, armlike mouths.

In the next tank several sea horses were swimming merrily in and out of rocks that were covered by a growth of miniature trees. They were smaller than the tiniest hobbyhorse that has ever been seen, as small almost as the toy horses in a "Noah's ark." The resemblance of these small fish, not larger than smelts or minnows, that have come to be known as "sea horses," to real horses is in the head only. The rest of the body tapers off into the ordinary fishlike form. I wondered, as I looked at these small horses of the sea, if it was from them that the old myth of the existence of mermaids arose. "Half fish, half women" were the mermaids, but "half fish, half horses" are these fish.

They were lively little creatures, and swam in and out of the tiny forest as if they were playing a game of "tag." What a beautiful little forest it was to play in! The trees had brown trunks about the size of one's finger, and from the top a graceful, palmlike foliage branched out, but the foliage was not in greens, but deep, translucent reds, or coral pinks, or warm browns.

While I was admiring one of the little coral pink trees, one of the sea horses swam straight into its foliage, when, to my amazement, and evidently to the amazement of the sea horse also, the