Indeed, he had firmly resolved to carry out this plan when the Yookoohoo put down her knitting and walked toward the door.
"I'm going out for a few minutes," said she; "do you wish to go with me, or will you remain here?"
Ervic did not answer but sat quietly on his bench. So Reera went out and closed the cottage door.
As soon as she was gone, Ervic rose and tiptoed to the cupboard.
"Take care! Take care!" cried several voices, coming from the kittens and chipmunks. "If you touch anything we'll tell the Yookoohoo!"
Ervic hesitated a moment but, remembering that he need not consider Reera's anger if he succeeded in transforming the fishes, he was about to open the cupboard when he was arrested by the voices of the fishes, which stuck their heads above the water in the kettle and called out:
"Come here, Ervic!"
So he went back to the kettle and bent over it
"Let the cupboard alone," said the goldfish to him earnestly. "You could not succeed by getting that magic powder, for only the Yookoohoo knows how to use it. The best way is to allow her to transform us into three girls, for then we will have our natural shapes and be able to perform all the Arts of Magic we have learned and well understand. You are acting wisely and in the most effective manner. We did not know you were so intelligent, or that Reera could be so easily deceived by you. Continue as you have begun and try to persuade her to transform us. But insist that we be given the forms of girls."
The goldfish ducked its head down just as Reera re- entered the cottage. She saw Ervic bent over the kettle, so she came and joined him.
"Can your fishes talk?" she asked.
"Sometimes," he replied, "for all fishes in the Land of Oz know how to speak. Just now they were asking me for some bread. They are hungry."
"Well, they can have some bread," said Reera. "But it is nearly supper-time, and if you would allow me to transform your fishes into girls they could join us at the table and have plenty of food much nicer than crumbs. Why not let me transform them?"
"Well," said Ervic, as if hesitating, "ask the fishes. If they consent, why -- why, then, I'll think it over."
Reera bent over the kettle and asked:
"Can you hear me, little fishes?"
All three popped their heads above water.
"We can hear you," said the bronzefish.
"I want to give you other forms, such as rabbits, or turtles or girls, or something; but your master, the surly Skeezer, does not wish me to. However, he has agreed to the plan if you will consent."
"We'd like to be girls," said the silverfish.
"No, no!" exclaimed Ervic.
"If you promise to make us three beautiful girls, we will consent," said the goldfish.
"No, no!" exclaimed Ervic again.
"Also make us Adepts at Magic," added the bronzefish.
"I don't know exactly what that means," replied Reera musingly, "but as no Adept at Magic is as powerful as Yookoohoo, I'll add that to the transformation."
"We won't try to harm you, or to interfere with your magic in any way," promised the goldfish. "On the contrary, we will be your friends."
"Will you agree to go away and leave me alone in my cottage, whenever I command you to do so?" asked Reera.
"We promise that," cried the three fishes.
"Don't do it! Don't consent to the transformation," urged Ervic.
"They have already consented," said the Yookoohoo, laughing in his face, "and you have promised me to abide by their decision. So, friend Skeezer, I shall perform the transformation whether you like it or not."
Ervic seated himself on the bench again, a deep scowl on his face but joy in his heart. Reera moved over to the cupboard, took something from the drawer and returned to the copper kettle. She was clutching something tightly in her right hand, but with her left she reached within the kettle, took out the three fishes and laid them carefully on the floor, where they gasped in distress at being out of water.
Reera did not keep them in misery more than a few seconds, for she touched each one with her right hand and instantly the fishes were transformed into three tall and slender young women, with fine, intelligent faces and clothed in handsome, clinging gowns.