I wrote this story sixty years ago, when I was a young teacher.
I have divided it into five parts.
The trouble with Esmeralda was that she was never satisfied:she was far too vain and idle to be anything else but bored with the beautiful,cool green world in which she lived.
For Esmeralda was a mermaid: and although she floated all day through groves of sea-plants
hung with shining fruit and flowers like so many salt-water Christmas-trees,she hardly even noticed them.
She had a thousand lively little friends;when she called their names the baby fish would come in flocks to be fed,just like London pigeons, only twice as tame;and yet she longed to leave them all behind and live in the World-above-the-Water.
It all began with a magazine which somebody left on the beach at Brighton one windy summer evening; off it flew to sea,and floated about for a long time,rocked to and fro beneath the stars,until at length it sank slowly down,down,down to the depths below and settled on the sea-grass doormat just in front of Esmeralda's cave. There it lay in the morning,rather wet and droopy after its long journey;and as it was the first magazine that
Esmeralda had ever seen,you can imagine how eagerly she snatched it up!
From that moment she had no room in her silly head for anything. She sat alone on her sunning-stone and gazed longingly at the film-stars' fashionable dresses,slapping the sand with her tail every now and then in disgust at her own shimmering scales. All her friends were forgotten; beneath her window the sea-anemones held out their tiny petal-arms for breakfast-crumbs(for flowers beneath the sea, you know,must be fed as well as watered):but no-one came, and presently they curled themselves outside-in and fell hungrily asleep.
The sea-urchins waved as they tumbled merrily to school,and the sea-horses puffed out their speckled chests and nodded their spiky noses in a kindly way;but Esmeralda had eyes for nothing save her precious magazine.
Days passed, and the only sounds in the garden were the creaking of the oyster-bed and the ripple of the turning pages. At last she lifted her head,shook out her golden hair and said, in a voice all trembly with excitement:
"I'll do it! I'll go! I'll be off this very day!"
Esmeralda had decided to become a FILM-STAR!
First,however,she had to see the King.......