170 THE MERMAID AND THE BOY
skin grew hairy and yellow. But what pleased him most was his long tail with a tuft at the end, which he lashed and switched proudly. ' I like being a lion very much,' he said to himself, and trotted gaily along the road.
After a while, however, he got tired of walking in this unaccustomed way—it made his back ache and his front paws felt sore. So he wished himself a boy again, and in the twinkling of an eye his tail disappeared and his head shrank, and the long thick mane became short and curly. Then he looked out for a sleeping place, and found some dry ferns, which he gathered and heaped up.
But before he had time to close his eyes there wras a great noise in the trees near by, as if a big heavy body was crashing through them. The boy rose and turned his head, and saw a huge black bear coming towards him.
' What are you doing here ? ' cried the bear.
' I am running away from the mermaid,' answered the boy ; but the bear took no interest in the mermaid, and only said: ' I am hungry; give me something to eat.'
The knapsack was lying on the ground among the fern, but the prince picked it up, and, unfastening the strap, took out his second flask of wine and another loaf of bread. ' We will have supper together,' he remarked politely ; but the bear, who had never been taught manners, made no reply, and ate as fast as he could. When he had quite finished, he got up and stretched himself.
' You have got a comfortable-looking bed there,' he observed. ' I really think that, bad sleeper as I am, I might have a good night on it. I can manage to squeeze you in,' he added ; ' you don't take up a great deal of room.' The boy was rather indignant at the bear's cool way of talking; but as he was too tired to gather more fern, they lay down side by side, and never stirred till sunrise next morning.