In the cove and under the rock ran a deep cave, that he guessed at once to be the entrance to Shag’s palace, where you could go down into the sea without drowning, as the Mermen and Mermaids do. Very quietly he fastened his boat to the rock, then climbed on to the gunwale and dived like a dolphin into the deep, dark, ripply water.
Yes, this was the entrance to the Palace of King Shag! At the bottom of the cave was a winding stairway, like the inside of a huge shell. Strange, fantastic fish swam up and down and churned up the water so that it was very hard for Birdling to keep his balance. But fortunately, they did not see him, so he crept on slowly down the steps.
Suddenly he saw a gleam of light, and he felt sure it must be from Shag’s palace. Faster and faster he ran down the wet, mossy stairs, till a current of water caught him and took him all the way down just as a fly goes down the hole in a washbowl. When he landed at the foot of the stairs, he was sitting on golden sands and the bright lights blinded his eyes.
“Why, what’s this?” said a thundering voice in his ear, and a huge fin picked him up. He looked up and saw Shag himself, a huge silvery fish with long whiskers and pop-eyes and a golden crown on his head. He was very hideous, and Birdling was terribly frightened, but he looked all around hoping to see the Prince.
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“I don’t know who you are,” said Shag, “but you look as if you’d make a nice little morsel.” “I will let you have one chance for your life. Before I eat you, you shall come and see th…