'I do not think you believe there is such a place,' replied the tortoise, who had seen a twinkle in Urashima's eye. 'Yet I assure you it exists, but a long way off - right down at the bottom of the sea. If you would really like to see Rin Gin, I will take you there.'

'That is very kind of you,' said Urashima with a polite bow, which pleased the tortoise greatly; 'but I am only a man, you know, and cannot swim a long way under the sea like a tortoise.'

But the little creature hastened to reassure him.

'That's not at all necessary,' it said. 'I'll do the swimming and you can ride on my back.'

Urashima laughed. The idea of his riding on the back of a tortoise that he could hold in his hand was funny, and he said so.

'Never mind how funny it is,' said the tortoise; 'just get on and see.' And then, as Urashima looked at it, the tortoise grew and grew and grew until its back was big enough for two men to ride upon.

'What an extraordinary thing!'exclaimed Urashima. 'Right you are, friend tortoise, I'll come with you.' And with that he jumped on.

'That's better,' said the tortoise; 'now we'll be off. Hold tight!'

The next moment the tortoise plunged into the sea, and dived down and down until Urashima thought they would never be able to reach the surface again in a thousand years. At last he caught sight of a land below them, shining all green with the filtered sunlight; and now, as they took a level course, he could make out the towns and villages below, with beautiful gardens full of bright flowers and waving dreamy trees. Then they passed over a vast green plain, at the further side of which, in a village at the foot of high mountains, shone the splendid portals of a magnificent palace.

'See!' said the tortoise, 'that is the entrance to Rin Gin. We shall soon be there now. How do you feel?'

'Quite well, thank you!' And indeed, when Urashima felt his clothes he found they were quite dry, which was really not so surprising because, as he was borne swiftly through the water, there was all the time a space of air around him, so that not only was he kept quite dry, but he could breathe quite easily.

When they drew nearer to the great gate, Urashima could see beyond it, half hidden by the trees, the shining domes of the palace. It was indeed a magnificent place, unlike anything ever seen in the lands above the sea.

Now they were at the great gate, and the tortoise stopped at the foot of a flight of coral steps and asked him to dismount.

'You can walk now, Urashima'; and it led the way. Then the gatekeeper - a royal sturgeon - challenged them, but the tortoise explained that Urashima was a mortal from the great kingdom of Japan, who had come to visit the Sea King, and the gatekeeper immediately showed them in.

As they advanced, they were met by the courtiers and officials. The dolphin, the bonito, the great cuttle-fish, the bright-red bream; and the mullet, the sole, the flounder, and a host of other fishes came forward and bowed gracefully before the tortoise; indeed, such homage did they pay that Urashima wondered what sway the tortoise held in this kingdom beneath the sea. Then, when the visitor was introduced, they all cried out a welcome. And the dolphin, who was a high official, remarked, 'We are delighted to see so distinguished a stranger from the great kingdom of Japan. Welcome to the palace of the Dragon King of the Sea!'

Then all the fishes went in a procession before them to the interior of the palace.

Now the humble fisherman had never been in such a magnificent place before. He had never read How to behave in a Palace, but, though much amazed, he did not feel at all shy. As he followed his guides, he suddenly noticed that the tortoise had disappeared, but he soon forgot this when he saw a lovely Princess, surrounded by her maidens, come forward to greet him.

She was more beautiful than anything on earth, and her robes of pink and green changed colour like the surface of the sea at sunset in some sheltered cove. There were threads of pure gold in her long hair, and, as she smiled, her teeth looked like little white pearls. She spoke soft words to him, and her voice was as the murmur of the sea.

Urashima was so enchanted that he could not speak a word; but he had heard that one must always bow low to a Princess, and he was about to do so when the Princess tripped to his side, and, taking his hand in hers, led him off into a splendid apartment, where she conducted him to the place of honour and asked him to be seated.

'Listen to me, Urashima,' she said in a low, sweet voice. 'I am filled with joy at welcoming you to my father's palace, and I will tell you why. Yesterday you saved the precious life of a tortoise. Urashima, I was that tortoise! It was my life that you saved!'

Urashima could not believe this at first, but, when he gazed into her beautiful eyes, he remembered their wistful look, and her sweet words were spoken in the same voice as that which had called his name upon the sea. And he was so astonished that he could not speak.

'Would you like to live here always, Urashima, - to live in everlasting youth, never growing tired or weary? This is the land of eternal summer, where all is joy, and neither death nor sorrow may come. Stay, Urashima, and I, the Princess of my father's kingdom, will be your bride!'

Urashima felt it was all a dream; yet, if it were, then from the very heart of that dream he replied in words that came of their own accord.

'Sweet Princess, if I could thank you ten thousand times I should still want to thank you all over again. I will stay here; nay - more: I simply cannot go, for this is the most wonderful place I have ever dreamed of, and you are the most wonderful thing in it.'

A smile spread over her lovely face. She bent towards him, and their lips met in the first sweet kiss of love.

Then, as if by this a magic button had been pressed, a loud gong sounded, and immediately the whole palace was in a bustle of excitement. Presently a procession of all kinds of fishes came in, all richly attired in flowing robes of various colours. Each one advanced with slow and stately pace, some bearing beautiful flowers, others great mother-of-pearl dishes laden with all the delicacies that go to make a feast; others bore trays of coral, red and white, with fragrant wines and rare fruits such as only grow at the bottom of the sea. It was the wedding feast, and with all decorum they set everything before the bride and bridegroom.