MER-MAID

It was on a bright summer morning that Ariel heard her young daughter squeal with delight: "Mommie! It's Sebastian!"

Ariel, who was sitting on the couch, looked up from her knitting. Her old crab friend was sitting on the sill of the parlor's open window.

The girl grinned. "Sebastian! Come here and look at the sweater I'm making for Melody!" Sebastian hopped down and skittered over to the couch,... with a giggling Melody right behind him.

Ariel's smile disappeared when she saw the worry on the crab's face. She put down her knitting. "What's wrong?"

Sebastian frowned. "Humans! Dat's what's wrong! They've got Flounder and Scuttle!"

The girl straighted in alarm. "Got them?! What do you mean?!"

The crab clattered his claws with agitation. "Oh Mon! What a mess! We were out by de cay; in shallow water,...just minding our own business. Scuttle was puttin' us to sleep with some ridiculous story,.. And dis Human comes over and just snatches dem up! He would've gotten me too, but I pinched his finger." Sebastian snapped his claw for illustration.

"That's terrible!", exclaimed the Princess.

"What did you do, Uncle Sebastian?", asked Melody, sitting beside her mother.

Sebastian paced back and forth on the floor, waving his claws. "What could I do? I felt helpless! Dat's when I hot-footed it over here!"

Ariel bit her nails. "Let's see,... Eric's away on a meeting in Jamaica,... Did you see where the Human went?"

Sebastian nodded. "I watched the scoundrel carry dem off to a big house on the hill. A big, fancy place!"

Ariel stooped down to pick up the crab. She leaned over to kiss her daughter. "Mommie's going to get Flounder and Scuttle back. Aunt Carlotta will take care of you til I get back."

Melody grinned. " But I want to go too."

Ariel smiled. "You're a little too young, just yet!"

Sebastian managed a smile through his worry. "Just like you were. She's gonna be a clawful in a couple more years!"

Ariel smirked down at him. "A couple more years?,... She's a clawful now!"

The Princess waved goodbye to Melody and Carlotta, as Grimbsy drove their carriage through the front gate. "You be good now! I'll be back soon!", called the girl to her daughter.

Eric's counsellor looked back at the girl and sighed. "You might have waited until Eric returns, Princess. "

"Why can't I do it by myself?", asked the girl.

"I did not say that you couldn't", explained Grimbsy. "The fact of the matter is that not everyone knows you at present; while the Prince has had more exposure in the more remote regions of the island."

Ariel giggled. "Don't be such a worry-whale, Grim! I'll just knock on the door, explain that they're my friends, and to please let them go."

Grimbsy nodded. "I hope that it will be that easy, Princess."

Sebastian, who was sitting next to the girl, looked up at her, nervously. "I tink Grimbsy is right. With us,...it's never dat easy."

With Sebastian to point the way, Ariel was ushered to the house: a large mansion on the far edge of the island. The girl remembered that it belonged to a retired Governor from one of the larger nearby islands. The Governor had once been close friends with Eric's father, so the Prince had felt it only right that he allow the man to build here.

Ariel walked up to the gate and smiled at the gatekeeper. "Hello! I'm Princess Ariel. May I speak to the Governor please?"

The guard looked down at the girl, with a frown. "Do you have an appointment?"

Ariel shrugged her shoulders, "Well,...nooooo. But it's very important! "

The guard smiled, sarcastically. "I'm terribly sorry,... princess. No one sees the Governor without an appointment. Now get lost."

Ariel huffed with anger. "But I really am Princess Ariel! And he's got two of my friends in there! Please let me see him!"

The guard just ignored her. Ariel looked up at the house with angry frustration. Then she walked back to the carriage and Grimbsy helped her in.

No success, I presume?", asked the man, dryly.

Ariel puffed at her curl with anger. "He doesn't believe me. How are we gonna get to see the Governor?"

Grimbsy put his hand to his chin, in thought. After a moment, he stepped down from the carriage. "I'll be right back, Princess."

The elderly man walked slowly over to the guard, who eyed him mercilessly. "She doesn't get in."

Grim nodded. "I understand that, of course. Which only produces a wealth of problems for all concerned, I'm afraid. I know this young Lady very well, you understand. Her temperment is not one to tolerate rejection."

The guard chuckled. "That's too bad."

"Yes; it is. I have no doubt that she will shortly be heading for the royal palace, to throw your refusal to her (which was totally warranted, of course) onto the Prince and pleading for his help."

The guard looked at him, suspiciously. "So?"

Grim smiled. "I'm sure that you're aware of the Prince's soft heart. The young Lady will sway him toward her side without fail. Which leads to misfortune for you and your master."

"What do you mean?", asked the guard, sharply.

"Well,...Eric will, of course, have to rectify the problem personally. Which means a trip to the Governor's mansion. I'm afraid the Governor will be quite inconvienced; having to explain his "heartless" treatment of the young Lady. And I'm afraid that your master will surely have some words for you, after the affair is finally over,.."

The guard shifted, uneasily. "Hmmm,..Yes,..."

Grim waited.

"Uhhh. Okay. She can see him. Let me tell the Governor that the,...Princess is coming."

Grimbsy smiled. "Very good, young man! You've averted certain catastrophe!"

Ariel beamed with joy upon hearing the news, and gave Grim a kiss on the cheek. "I don't know how you do it!", she laughed.

Grim smiled. "Devious methods should best be left to those more familiar with the courser qualities in Man. I'm confident that you will remain much too wholesome to learn them."

Ariel waited in the entrance-way of the mansion, while the guard brought to Governor to see her. The Governor looked to be in his forties: a large, polished man with a balding head of gray.

"Well! What is it? I'm very busy, you know!", he blurted.

Ariel looked up at him, urgently. "I'm Princess Ariel and I heard that you have my friends here!"

The Governor's fat face expressed shock. "Your friends? Your friends? Whatever do you mean, young lady?"

"A fish and a bird! You took them from the water! They're my friends! Where are they?!"

The Governor suddenly chucked. "Oh ho! So that's what you're after! You saw them too! It's too late, my little urchin! They're mine now! Go find your fortune elsewhere." The Governor looked coldly at the guard. "See this girl to the gate. And if she sticks her nose in here again, sick the dogs on her."

The guard nodded and took Ariel by the arm.

The Governor sneered. "And Randolf;...I'd like a word with you later,...about letting in tramps."

"Yes Sir", sighed the guard.

Ariel's shoulders sagged as she walked back to the carriage.

Sebastian looked at her, with concern. "Ariel? What happened?"

The girl squinted, angrily, back at the mansion. "He won't let Flounder and Scuttle go. He wants them for some reason or another."

"Perhaps for their ability to talk," sugguested Grimbsy.

"Dat's it!", growled Sebastian. "That silly seagull was doing enough of it before he got grabbed."

Ariel nodded. "Yeah! I bet that's it! We've got to rescue them!"

The Governor grumbled to himself as he walked back up the stairs, "Everyone wants to take away my treasures,...but they won't! This one belongs to me!"

Behind one of the bedroom doors, Scuttle was sitting on a high-back chair, munching on a mango. Flounder floated, sullenly, in a big tub of warm water.

Scuttle brightened as the man entered the room, "Glad yer back Gov! I'm starting to run short on fruit."

The man nodded his head. "So sorry! I'll have Clark bring up some more,..." He headed for the tub. "And how is our favorite fishy doing?"

Flounder stuck out his tongue.

Now, now! That's no way to act; now is it? I've got you some nice fresh kelp! You want some?"

Scuttle called over to his friend, "Come on, Flounder! Watcha so grouchy for? This is tha' life! A nice, cozy room,..plenty to eat,.. Why don't cha say something for the Govner?"

The Governor nodded eagerly. "Yes! Talk like you did on the beach!"

Flounder gave him a dark look and turned away.

Scuttle flapped onto the Governor's shoulder. "I don't think yer reachin' him, Gov." The seagull smiled, "Hey! I know!" Scuttle whispered in the man's ear; accidently nipping it with his beak. "Oh. Sorry about that".

The man drew a deep breath. "Quite all right, my feathered friend. You're ineptness is certainly worth a few scratches."

Scuttle flapped proudly back to the chair. "See there, Flounder! He's callin' me royal-like now! My Ineptness!"

The Governor rolled his eyes, and then stooped back down to Flounder. "I bet I know what you'd like! How about if I bring up a pretty girl fish to share your tub!"

"A girl?! Yuck!", answered Flounder.

The Governor scratched his balding head. "Hmmm. Well; at least you're talking. That's a start.

Ariel stared, with silent thoughtfulness, at the fence-encircled mansion. Grim looked down at her with anxiety. "You're very quiet. That does not bode well."

Sebastian nodded. "She's up to someting."

"Do you think I might,...might be able to sneak inside?", she asked hesitantly.

Grimbsy shook his head. "Certainly not. I can just imagine the turmoil when the Prince has to lock up the Princess for "breaking and entering". It's time to return to the palace and await Eric."

Ariel started. "No! Not yet! Let's go around the back first. Maybe there's a servant's entrance or something."

The crab shrugged. "Might as well do it. She'll come back here herself if you don't."

Grim smiled and prompted the horse to get-up. Sure enough, the far side (overlooking the expanse of the ocean) reveiled a separate, gated entrance. There was another guard, but Ariel spotted something else. A large sign was posted on the fence: "Maid wanted. Apply within." Ariel grinned.

Sebastian hopped into her dress pocket as she got down from the carriage. Ariel smiled up at Grimbsy, "Come back in a few hours!"

Grim sighed and turned the horse. "You will be careful, I trust?"

Ariel nodded, as she hurried to the gate. She looked up at the guard and pointed to the sign.

The guard eyed her with a sly smile. "You're a cute one,..."

Ariel smiled. "That's what my husband always says. My loving, devoted, madly-jealous husband. You know him; don't you? He teaches swordsmanship in the village."

The guard looked away. "Job pays two shillings a week. See tha' butler."

Once inside, the butler rushed up and grabbed her by the shoulders, "Can you serve drinks? Be a hostess? Great! You're hired! The party's tonight and we're desperately short help! Go see the cook in the kitchen to find out your duties!" The man rushed off before Ariel had a chance to speak.

Sebastian peeked out of her pocket. "Good. Now let's find Flounder and Sebastian and get out of dis place!"

Ariel smirked. "We just got here! I can't just start wandering around the house; that Governor might spot me. Let's find the kitchen first."

Sebastian moaned. "I don't like Human kitchens!"

The Governor was starting to get a headache. "Come on now, little fishy,.. Say something." Flounder squirted water in his face.

Scuttle came flapping over and landed on the man's head; still munching on a mango. "I tell ya, Gov,...that fish can be stubborn sometimes. He's been around the Princess too long."

"Would you get off my head, please!", moaned the Governor.

Scuttle nodded. "Sure thing, Gov! It's just that that bald spot reminded me of my nest back on the island. Kinda shiny-like."

The man wiped his drenched face with his handkerchief.

"Not that I'm saying your head looks like a nest or anything! I mean,..your head looks real nice, as far as Humans go, of course. A head doesn't have ta' have hair on it to look nice."

"I have hair on my head; thank you!", growled the Governor.

"Scuttle nodded, with a silly smile. "Oh yeah! That stuff around your ears! Very striking, if I may say! Plenty enough to keep yer hat from fallin' down over your eyes."

The man turned around to the gabbing gull. "Why don't you,...sit back down in your chair and eat mangos?"

Scuttle rubbed his belly. "Actually, I'm startin' to feel kinda full, at tha' moment. I'd rather just talk with you, Gov. Humans don't really pay much attention to us gulls,...unless they're throwing rocks at us, of course. Then it gets to the point where I'd really not prefer to have that much attention,.."

The man sighed, deeply. "Well,...You'll have plenty of Humans to talk to, this evening. I've invited all of my close friends to hear you. Very important, powerful friends. It's my chance to show them up. It's my chance to rise above them. You and that fish are going to leave them stunned and utterly humbled by my good fortune!"

Scuttle nodded. "Sounds good, Gov! Most Humans get stunned by me; guess it's my charm. Hear that, Flounder? We're gonna be famous!"

Flounder smirked and squrted the Governor on the back of the neck. The man jumped and spun around. "Why you!,....dear little fishy,... That's no way to act,.... You want me to impress my friends tonight, don't you?"

Flounder suddenly smiled. "Yeah,...I guess so,..", he suddenly answered.

The Governor grinned, joyfully. "That's it! I knew you could do it! Just wait til they hear you!" The man walked towards the door. "I'm going downstairs to see how the preparations are going. I'll return shortly."

Scuttle waved goodbye. "See ya Gov! And bring me back some milk; would ya? My tummy's kinda queasy."

Ariel heard the man stomp into the kitchen just in time. She stuck her head into a cabinet.

"Well? How is the dinner coming?", demanded the Governor. "The guests will be arriving soon!"

The cook nodded his head urgently. "It's almost done, Sir! The new maid is helping me with it!"

The Governor darted a glance over at Ariel. "New maid? Splendid! Now get your head out of that cabinet and get busy!"

Ariel answered; trying to disguise her voice, "Uh,..Yes Sir!"

The Governor raised up on his toes, with a pompous frown. "Look at me when you're talking!"

Ariel hesitanty poked her head out and smiled weakly.

"You!", roared the man. "How did you get in here! I'll have you thrown,.."

"Your guests have arrived, Sir!", called the butler from the entrance hall.

The Governor pointed a finger at the girl as he glared, "I'll take care of you later!" With that, he rushed out of the room.

"We're in a kelp-ful of trouble now, Girl!", moaned Sebastian.

"We've got to find Flounder and Scuttle before he has a chance to throw us out!", returned the Princess.

The Governor rushed as fast as his big belly allowed up the stairs to check on his captives. Flounder grinned, like a catfish, at the man when he came in; Scuttle was relaxing in the chair. The bird was rubbing his beak with something grey and hairy and flat.

The man bellowed, "My toupee! What are you doing?!"

Scuttle stopped pulling the hair-piece back and forth over his beak and looked at it with puzzlement. "A toupee, huh? Sorry about that! I thought it was a beak polisher! Does a good job too! The hairs are just soft enough to get a good shine,..."

The man moaned and covered his face. "I bought that in America. It was custom-made!,.."

"Well,...I'll let ya use it too! Perfectly fine! Just lost a few hairs here and there,.."

"No,....no. That's all right", groaned the Governor. "Your idiocy will be worth it yet. My friends have arrived. We're about to have dinner,.."

"I'd really like ta join ya, but I'm pretty full up on mangos. Not that I'd love a change about now. After ya eat five or six of those things, they kinda get old. That's why I like goin' over to tha' palace. Tha' Princess always has some new kinda fruit for me to try. They get bananas and pineapples and peaches,.."

"Yes", growled the man. "Now I must go,.."

"You ever had peaches, Gov? Great little guys! Kinda fuzzy, but they taste really good if ya' don't mind tha' hair. You all right, Gov? Ya look kinda red in tha' face."

"I'll,...be,..back. To take you downstairs to meet my guests."

"I can't wait!", announced Scuttle, with a silly grin. "Me and Flounder will be gabbing til ya' get back."

Ariel almost got run over by the Governor as he rushed downstairs. The man roared at her as he dashed to meet his friends, "You! Stay away from that staircase! Go into the kitchen and serve dinner!"

Ariel recoiled from the man's fury and backed into the kitchen. "Guess we gotta server dinner first", sighed the girl.

The Governor's blood-pressure managed to drop a little as he ate with his guests. He even smiled as they asked him what the big secret was. "Oh,...You'll just have to see, Baron! It will be quite a shock to you!" The Governor chuckled.

Another man laughed. "Perhaps Edmund has bought a new boat. The one he had before had more barnacles on the hull than wood !"

The Governor grinned with devilish mockery. "Oh no. It isn't a boat. It's something that you certainly don't own,...and you'll wish that you did."

Ariel came around and put out the next course. She tried to stay clear of the glaring Governor. When she turned to leave, the man grabbed her wrist. "No,...my dear. Sit over there so I can keep an eye on you,.."

Ariel shook free and sat down; glaring at him.

One of the guests chuckled. "Perhaps you're talking about her; eh Edmund? Did Winfred approve of her?"

The Governor smiled; confidently. "It doesn't matter whether Winfred approves or not. I'm the Master of this house."

The other men laughed.

After the dinner, the Governor ushered his friends into the living room. He beamed at them, "Prepare to be awed, Gentlemen!" Ariel looked anxiously at the man. She only hoped that her friends were all right!

When he brought down Scuttle, on his shoulder, and Flounder, in a big bowl of water, the men burst out laughing. Ariel and Sebastian watched from as close as they dared.

"Now that's amazing!, Edmund! Where on Earth did you find a fish and a seagull on an island?", laughed the Baron.

The Governor smiled slyly and set the two on a table. "You are about to hear how special they are; my ignorant friend." The man grinned at Scuttle. "Say hello to my guests, Mr. sea-gull."

Scuttle opened his beak,...and let out a barely-audible squeek."

The grin froze on the Governor's face. "I beg your pardon?"

Scuttle made a bunch of whispering noises; he motioned to the Governor.

The Baron chuckled. "That's really something, Edmund!"

Scuttle whispered in the man's ear.

"Laryngitis!!"

The guests roared with laughter. Sebastian shrugged and smiled feebly.

The Governor wiped his head with his handkerchief and turned to Flounder. "Okay, little fishy,..Now's your chance,.. Say hello to the nice gentlemen!"

Flounder grinned and squrted water in his face." Ariel couldn't help giggling.

The Baron put a hand on the Governor's shoulder. "Really, Edmund; I think you've been out in the sun too long."

Another man snorted, "I, personally, don't find this, in the least, amusing."

The others nodded and grabbed their coats. "We've had enough of your strange joke." They walked out; leaving the Governor wiping his face.

Scuttle flapped onto his shoulder. "Sorry about that, Gov", he barely whispered. "Guess I've just been gabbing too much. Hit me just like that!"

The man's face turned a bright red. "I've always,...wondered what sea-gull tasted like,... And tomorrow night; I'm going to find out! Sea-gull and fish!"

Ariel gasped with horror. "No,..."

"Edmund!!", roared a woman's voice. Ariel turned, to see an older woman marching through the front door. "Just what is going on here?!"

"Winfred!! Dearest!", gasped the Governor.

"What are those animals doing on my table?! Having fun with the boys while I'm away; hmmm?"

"No, Dearest! I was,...I found these,..." The man wiped the back of his neck as he waved at Flounder and Scuttle. "They,...can talk,.."

Winfred nodded with a cold face. "Oh,...I see,..."

"Well,...they can't talk,...at the moment,..."

The woman's eyes narrowed and she pushed her husband aside when she saw Ariel. "And I suppose you found her as well!"

The Governor moaned, "No Sweet ems! She just,...just snuck in,... She's after the fish and the bird!"

Ariel expressed mock suprise, and she shrugged.

Winfred fumed silently, before walking towards the stairs. "You will remove those animals from my house. And dismiss this,...maid. I'm going upstairs to decide whether you're going to join them."

The Governor nodded. "Yes, Dearest."

Ariel heard the woman stomp up the stairs and then slam a door shut. The girl looked angrily at the man. "I want my friends back!"

The Governor eyes widened. "You,....you want your friends back?,..." The man started giggling. "You want them back?,... He! He! He!"

The man rushed over to the table, grabbed Flounder's bowl, and shoved it into her arms.

"Please! Please take them!" Without a pause, the Governor brought Scuttle and sat him on top of Flounder.

"Take them!! Take them!! Far away!!" Take them away!!"

The girl smirked up at the man. "Teaches you right. Bet you won't go locking up my friends again!" Ariel turned up her nose and left.

Grimbsy had the carriage waiting when the girl came out. He smiled when he saw Flounder and Scuttle in her arms. " I never doubted."

Ariel carefully put Flounder's bowl into the carriage. She looked up at Grimbsy. "Let's get them back to the palace as soon as we can! Flounder needs his water changed and Scuttle's throat is sore!"

Sebastian blurted from out of Ariel's pocket, "What's dat ting Scuttle's holding?"

Scuttle grinned and showed it to his friends. "Oh; this?" he whispered. "It's a beak polisher!"



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