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The Girl-Fish

The hours since she had left had passed very slowly -- as they always do to those who are waiting -- and many of them had quite given up hope.

"I am tired of staying here," grumbled a beautiful little creature, whose colors changed with every movement of her body. "I want to see what is going on in the upper world. It must be months since that fish went away."

"It was a very difficult task, and the giant must certainly have killed her or she would have been back long ago," remarked another.

"The young flies will be coming out about now," murmured a third, "and they will all be eaten up by the river fish! It would really be too bad to miss them." When suddenly, a voice was heard from behind: "Look! look! What is that bright thing moving so swiftly towards us?" And the queen started up and stood on her tail, so excited was she.

A silence fell on all the crowd, and even the grumblers held their peace and gazed like the rest. On and on came the fish, holding the crown tightly in her mouth, and the others moved back to let her pass. On she went right up to the queen, who bent and, taking the crown, placed it on her own head. Then a wonderful thing happened. Her tail dropped away or, rather, it divided and grew into two legs and a pair of the prettiest feet in the world, while her maidens, who were grouped around her, shed their scales and became girls again. They all turned and looked at each other first, and next at the little fish who had regained her own shape also.

"It is you who have given us back our life; you, you!" they cried, and fell to weeping from very joy.

So they all quickly swam to the surface and went to the queen's palace on land. But they had been so long away that they found many changes. The queen's husband, now king, recognized her at once since the spell was broken the moment the queen placed her rightful crown upon her head. The little boy she had left behind was now all grown up!

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