70 THE LITTLE SEA MAID
great icebergs were floating about; each one appeared like a pearl, she said, and yet was much taller than the church steeples built by men. They showed themselves in the strangest forms, and shone like diamonds. She had seated herself upon one of the greatest of all, and let the wind play with her long hair ; and all the sailing ships tacked about in great alarm to get beyond where she sat; but towards evening the sky became covered with clouds, it thundered and lightened, and the black waves lifted the great iceblocks high up, and let them glow in the red glare. On all the ships the sails were reefed, and there was fear and anguish. But she sat quietly upon her floating iceberg, and saw the forked blue flashes dart into the sea.
Each of the sisters, as she came up for the first time to the surface of the water, was delighted with the new and beautiful sights she saw ; but as they now had permission, as grown-up girls, to go whenever they liked, it became indifferent to them. They wished themselves back again, and after a month had elapsed they said it was best of all down below, for there one felt so comfortably at home.
Many an evening hour the five sisters took one another by the arm and rose up in a row over the water. They had splendid voices, more charming than any mortal could have ; and when a storm was approaching, so that they might expect that ships would go down, they swamoru before the^bips and sang lovely songs, which told how beautiiuTit was at the bottom of the sea, and exhortecTTher-sailors not to be afraid tacrTme down. But these could not understand the words, and thought it was the storm sighing ; and they did not see the splendours below, for if the ships sank they were drowned, and came as corpses to the . Sea King's palace.
When the sisters thus rose up, arm in arm, in the evening time, through the water, the little sister stood all alone looking after them ; and she felt as if she must weep ; but the sea maid has no tears, and for this reason she suffers far more acutely.
1 Oh, if I were only fifteen years old ! ' said she. ' I know I shall love the world up there very much, and the people who live and dwell there.'
At last she was really fifteen years old.