KING NEPTUNE'S SECRETARY

  One morning I sailed from my summer
home on Long Island Sound, over to Fish
Island to see the great nets drawn which are set every night
for fish.
  My object in going was the hope of obtaining a curious
salt-water creature, which I had been told carried a bag of
black ink and a quill pen about with him.  I had been
presented with one of these pens, which resembled a large
goos quill.  The point was sharp like that of a pen, but I
had supposed this done by the penknife of the donor before
presenting it to me.
  I made my errand known to Mr. Kelcey, the owner of the
Island, who has lived all his life in close communion with the
finny tribe.
  "Oh, it is a Squid you want?" he said.  Then he called
out to the man who was shoveling thousands of scaly beauties
into a large basket from the bottom of a boat: "Look about
there for a squid, Tom, and throw one up here, won't you?"
  A moment later the queerest looking thing I ever beheld
was tossed upon the dock.  It consisted of a long oval body
which was soft and pulpy to touch; from this body protruded
a head composed only of two monstrous eyes, and a quantity
of long straggling tendrils, under which was a beak precisely
like a parrot's bill.
  The dock where it lay was stained jet black by a fluid
which flowed from a bag under the neck.
  The hands of the boy who brought the fish home for me
were stained as by indelible ink.
  Mr. Kelcey told me that this fluid was used by the squid to
darken the waters and enable him to escape unseen by his
enemies when they pursued him.
  But after I had the creature at home where I could care-
fully examine him at leisure, and after I had taken out his
spiral column and found what a perfect pen it was,
already sharpened for use, I made up my mind that
Mr. Squid was Secretary to King Nep-
tune!  The pen is as transparent as isin-
glass, and is shaped in every respect
like a quill which has been carefully
sharpened for use.  The ink is as
black as that with which I now write.
And the expression of this ocean crea-
ture is decidedly intellectual! His
monstrous eyes set wide apart, his
straggling beard, and his hooked bill are not unlike some lit-
erary men whom I have seen, who were so absorbed in their
intellectual pursuits that they neglected their personal ap-
pearance.  If Mr. Squid has the entire correspondence of
King Neptune to attend to, we cannot wonder that he is un-
shaven and unshorn.
  I am curious to know what kind of stationery he uses.  I
suppose the large leaves growing on some of the wonderful
ocean plants serve him as letter paper, don't you?
  Americans do not consider the squid edible, but the Italians
make a great delicacy of it.
  Mr. Kelcey said its pulp-like body became firm with cooking.
The ancient Catholic Greeks used it as a favorite dish during
fasts, because they regarded it as neither fish nor flesh.
  But it seems to me I should feel like a cannibal if I ate the
Secretary of King Neptune.

The Beautiful Land of Nod by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: Morrill, Higgins & Co. [1892]


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