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Mermaid and the boy.
Start of Story
'I wonder how it feels to be a bear,' thought he to himself when he had
walked a little way; and he took out the tip from the breast of his coat
and wished hard that he might become a bear. The next moment his body
stretched out and thick black fur covered him all over. As before, his
hands were changed into paws, but when he tried to switch his tail
he found to his disgust that it would not go any distance. 'Why it
is hardly worth calling a tail!' said he. For the rest of the day he
remained a bear and continued his journey, but as evening came on the
bear-skin, which had been so useful when plunging through brambles in
the forest, felt rather heavy, and he wished himself a boy again. He was
too much exhausted to take the trouble of cutting any fern or seeking
for moss, but just threw himself down under a tree, when exactly
above his head he heard a great buzzing as a bumble-bee alighted on a
honeysuckle branch. 'What are you doing here?' asked the bee in a cross
voice; 'at your age you ought to be safe at home.'
'I am running away from the mermaid,' replied the boy; but the bee, like
the lion and the bear, was one of those people who never listen to
the answers to their questions, and only said: 'I am hungry. Give me
something to eat.'
The boy took his last loaf and flask out of his knapsack and laid them
on the ground, and they had supper together. 'Well, now I am going to
sleep,' observed the bee when the last crumb was gone, 'but as you are
not very big I can make room for you beside me,' and he curled up his
wings, and tucked in his legs, and he and the prince both slept soundly
till morning. Then the bee got up and carefully brushed every scrap of
dust off his velvet coat and buzzed loudly in the boy's ear to waken
'Take a single hair from one of my wings,' said he, 'and if you are in
danger just wish yourself a bee and you will become one. One good turn
deserves another, so farewell, and thank you for your supper.' And
the bee departed after the boy had pulled out the hair and wrapped it
carefully in a leaf.
'It must feel quite different to be a bee from what it does to be a lion
or bear,' thought the boy to himself when he had walked for an hour or
two. 'I dare say I should get on a great deal faster,' so he pulled out
his hair and wished himself a bee.
In a moment the strangest thing happened to him. All his limbs seemed
to draw together, and his body to become very short and round; his head
grew quite tiny, and instead of his white skin he was covered with the
richest, softest velvet. Better than all, he had two lovely gauze wings
which carried him the whole day without getting tired.
Late in the afternoon the boy fancied he saw a vast heap of stones a
long way off, and he flew straight towards it. But when he reached the
gates he saw that it was really a great town, so he wished himself back
in his own shape and entered the city.
He found the palace doors wide open and went boldly into a sort of
hall which was full of people, and where men and maids were gossiping
together. He joined their talk and soon learned from them that the king
had only one daughter who had such a hatred to men that she would never
suffer one to enter her presence. Her father was in despair, and had
had pictures painted of the handsomest princes of all the courts in the
world, in the hope that she might fall in love with one of them; but it
was no use; the princess would not even allow the pictures to be brought
into her room.
'It is late,' remarked one of the women at last; 'I must go to my
mistress.' And, turning to one of the lackeys, she bade him find a bed
for the youth.
'It is not necessary,' answered the prince, 'this bench is good enough
for me. I am used to nothing better.' And when the hall was empty he
lay down for a few minutes. But as soon as everything was quiet in the
palace he took out the hair and wished himself a bee, and in this shape
he flew upstairs, past the guards, and through the keyhole into the
princess's chamber. Then he turned himself into a man again.
At this dreadful sight the princess, who was broad awake, began to
scream loudly. 'A man! a man!' cried she; but when the guards rushed in
there was only a bumble-bee buzzing about the room. They looked under
the bed, and behind the curtains, and into the cupboards, then came
to the conclusion that the princess had had a bad dream, and bowed
themselves out. The door had scarcely closed on them than the bee
disappeared, and a handsome youth stood in his place.
'I knew a man was hidden somewhere,' cried the princess, and screamed
more loudly than before. Her shrieks brought back the guards, but though
they looked in all kinds of impossible places no man was to be seen, and
so they told the princess.
'He was here a moment ago--I saw him with my own eyes,' and the guards
dared not contradict her, though they shook their heads and whispered to
each other that the princess had gone mad on this subject, and saw a
man in every table and chair. And they made up their minds that--let her
scream as loudly as she might--they would take no notice.
Now the princess saw clearly what they were thinking, and that in future
her guards would give her no help, and would perhaps, besides, tell some
stories about her to the king, who would shut her up in a lonely tower
and prevent her walking in the gardens among her birds and flowers. So
when, for the third time, she beheld the prince standing before her, she
did not scream but sat up in bed gazing at him in silent terror.
'Do not be afraid,' he said, 'I shall not hurt you'; and he began to
praise her gardens, of which he had heard the servants speak, and the
birds and flowers which she loved, till the princess's anger softened,
and she answered him with gentle words. Indeed, they soon became so
friendly that she vowed she would marry no one else, and confided to
him that in three days her father would be off to the wars, leaving his
sword in her room. If any man could find it and bring it to him he would
receive her hand as a reward. At this point a cock crew, and the youth
jumped up hastily saying: 'Of course I shall ride with the king to
the war, and if I do not return, take your violin every evening to the
seashore and play on it, so that the very sea-kobolds who live at the
bottom of the ocean may hear it and come to you.'
Just as the princess had foretold, in three days the king set out for
the war with a large following, and among them was the young prince, who
had presented himself at court as a young noble in search of adventures.
They had left the city many miles behind them, when the king suddenly
discovered that he had forgotten his sword, and though all his
attendants instantly offered theirs, he declared that he could fight
with none but his own.
'The first man who brings it to me from my daughter's room,' cried he,
'shall not only have her to wife, but after my death shall reign in my