"But I can't tell you. Every one has a different idea of what he's like, and soon you will see him yourselves."
"Are you fond of him?" asked Trot.
"If I said yes, I'd get a good whipping," declared Sacho. "I am commanded to hate Zog, and being a good servant, I try to obey. If anyone dared to like Zog, I am sure he'd be instantly fed to the turtles; so I advise you not to like him."
"Oh, we won't," promised Trot.
"But we're keeping the master waiting, and that is also a dangerous thing to do," continued the boy. "If we don't hurry up, Zog will begin to smile, and when he smiles there is trouble brewing."
The queen sighed. "Lead the way, Sacho," she said. "We will follow."
The boy bowed again, and going to an archway, held aside the curtains for them. They first swam into a small anteroomn which led into a long corridor, at the end of which was another curtained arch. Through this Sacho also guided them, and now they found themselves in a cleverly constructed maze. Every few feet were twists and turns and sharp corners, and sometimes the passage would be wide, and again so narrow that they could just squeeze through in single file. "Seems like we're gettin' further into the trap," growled Cap'n Bill. "We couldn't find our way out o' here to save our lives."
"Oh yes we could," replied Clia, who was just behind him. "Such a maze may indeed puzzle you, but the queen or I could lead you safely through it again, I assure you. Zog is not so clever as he thinks himself."
The sailor, however, found the maze very bewildering, and so did Trot. Passages ran in every direction, crossing and recrossing, and it seemed wonderful that the boy Sacho knew just which way to go. But he never hesitated an instant. Trot looked carefully to see if there were any marks to guide him, but every wall was of plain, polished marble, and every turning looked just like all the others. Suddenly Sacho stopped short. They were now in a broader passage, but as they gathered around their conductor they found further advance blocked. Solid walls faced them, and here the corridor seemed to end.
"Enter!" said a clear voice.
"But we can't!" protested Trot.
"Swim straight ahead," whispered the boy in soft tones. "There is no real barrier before you. Your eyes are merely deceived by magic."
"Ah, I understand," said Aquareine, nodding her pretty head. And then she took Mayre's hand and swam boldly forward, while Cap'n Bill followed holding the hand of Clia. And behold! the marble wall melted away before them, and they found themselves in a chamber more splendid than even the fairy mermaids had ever seen before.
PRISONERS OF THE SEA MONSTER
The room in the enchanted castle which Zog called the "den" and in which the wicked sea monster passed most of his time was a perfectly shaped dome of solid gold. The upper part of this dome was thickly set with precious jewels--diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, which sparkled beautifully through the crystal water. The lower walls were as thickly studded with pearls, all being of perfect shape and color. Many of the pearls were larger than any which may be found upon earth, for the sea people knew where to find the very best and hide them away where men cannot discover them.
The golden floor was engraved with designs of rare beauty, depicting not only sea life, but many adventures upon land. In the room were several large, golden cabinets, the doors of which were closed and locked, and in addition to the cabinets there were tables, chairs and sofas, the latter upholstered with softest sealskins. Handsome rugs of exquisitely woven seaweeds were scattered about, the colors of which were artistically blended together. In one corner a fountain of air bubbled up through the water. The entire room was lighted as brilliantly as if exposed to the direct rays of the sun, yet where this light came from our friends could not imagine. No lamp or other similar device was visible anywhere.
The strangers at first scarcely glanced at all these beautiful things, for in an easy chair sat Zog himself, more wonderful than any other living creature, and as they gazed upon him, their eyes seemed fascinated as if held by a spell.