226 THE GIRL-FISH
when she heard a splash behind her, and looking round she saw a big fish jump into the air. Seizing the net with both hands, she flung it into the water where the circles were spreading one behind the other, and, more by luck than skill, drew out the fish.
'Well, you are a beauty!' she cried to herself; but the fish looked up to her and said:
'You had better not kill me, for, if you do, I will turn you into a fish yourself!'
The girl laughed contemptuously, and ran straight in to her mother.
'Look what I have caught,' she said gaily; 'but it is almost a pity to eat it, for it can talk, and it declares that, if I kill it, it will turn me into a fish too.'
'Oh, put it back, put it back!' implored the mother. 'Perhaps it is skilled in magic. And I should die, and so would your father, if anything should happen to you.'
'Oh, nonsense, mother; what power could a creature like that have over me? Besides, I am hungry, and if I don't have my dinner very soon, I shall be cross. And off she went to gather some flowers to stick in her hair.
About an hour later the blowing of a horn told her that dinner was ready.
'Didn't I say that fish would be delicious?' she cried; and plunging her spoon into the dish the girl helped herself to a large piece. But the instant it touched her mouth a cold shiver ran through her. Her head seemed to flatten, and her eyes to look oddly round the corners; her legs and her arms were stuck to her sides, and she gasped wildly for breath. With a mighty bound she sprang through the window and fell into the river, where she soon felt better, and was able to swim to the sea, which was close by.
No sooner had she arrived there than the sight of her sad face attracted the notice of some of the other fishes,