The surface of the water in the aquaria was many feet above the heads of even the gentlemen of the party, but there were nearly six hundred feet of glass front, so that everybody could have a good view of the strange and beautiful creatures within. They all watched them for some time with curiosity and interest, the little folks questioning their papa about one and another variety, new to them, but old acquaintances to one who had spent many years upon the sea.
“Papa,” said Elsie, “there is one that looks a good deal like a flower. Is it a live thing? What is its name?”
“That is what is called the sea anemone,” he replied. “It is not a flower though, but an animal. It is said to have been called by the name of that flower about a hundred years ago, by a celebrated investigator in the department of natural history, named Ellis. He thought it a suitable name because their tentacles are in regular circles and tinged with bright, lively colors, nearly representing some of our elegantly fringed flowers, such as the carnation, marigold, and anemone. And so they do while in the water, and undisturbed. But when a receding tide leaves them on the shore they contract into a jelly-like mass with a puckered hole in the top. There”—pointing it out—“is the most common of the British species of sea anemone. It attaches itself to rocks and stones from low-water almost to high-water mark. The tentacula—these feelers that look like the fringe of a flower—you see are nearly as long as the body is high, and nearly of the same color. See, there is an azure line around the base, and on the base are dark green lines converging toward the centre; and around the edge of the mouth is a circle of azure tubercles, like turquoise beads of the greatest beauty. I wish I could show them to you, but the mouth must be expanded in order to make them visible. Ah, that is just the thing!” as someone standing near threw in a bit of meat which had the desired effect, the mouth of the anemone opening wide to receive it.
“Oh, they are very beautiful!” exclaimed Rosie, watching the appearance of the beadlike tubercles of which the captain had just spoken.
“Don’t they eat anything but meat, papa?” asked Neddie.
“Yes; crabs, sea-worms, and fish; the tentacula are furnished with minute spears with which they wound their prey and probably convey poison into the wounds.”
“I suppose this is salt water they are all in?” Walter said enquiringly, and was told that he was correct in his conjecture.
On leaving the building they spent some time in examining its outside, finding its columns and arches wrought with calamus, fishes, frogs, serpents, and tortoises, making them very appropriate and beautiful.
“Papa, I wish we might go back to the Fair directly after supper and spend the evening there,” Lucilla said, as again they stood on the Dolphin’s deck. “I want so much to see the lighting up of the Court of Honor, then go to the wooded island to see it with the lamps lighted; after that to the Ferris Wheel again, to have the view from it by moonlight.”