THE LITTLE SEA MAID 71
1 Now, you see, you are grown up,' said the grandmother, the old dowager. ' Come, let me adorn you like your sisters.'
And she put a wreath of white lilies in the little maid's hair, but each petal in the flower was half a pearl ; and the old lady let eight great oysters attach themselves to the princess's tail, in token of trer highJrank.^
' But that hurts so ! ' said the little-^ea maid.
' Yes, one must suffer something for thejsake of rank,' replied the old lady.
Oh, how glad she would have been to shake off all the tokens of rank and lay aside the heavy wreath ! Her red flowers in the garden suited her better ; but she could not help it. * Farewell ! ' she said, and then she rose, light and clear as a water-bubble, up through the sea.
The sun had just set when she lifted her head above the sea, but all the clouds still shone like roses and gold, and in the pale red sky the evening star gleamed bright and beautiful. The air was mild and fresh and the sea quite calm. There lay a great ship with three masts ; one single sail only was set, for not a breeze stirred, and around in the shrouds and on the yards sat the sailors. There was music and singing, and as the evening closed in, hundreds of coloured lanterns were lighted up, and looked as if the flags of every nation were waving in the air. The little sea maid swam straight to the cabin window, and each time the sea lifted her up she could look through the panes, which were clear as crystal, and see many people standing within dressed in their best. But the handsomest of all was the young prince with the great black eyes : he was certainly not much more than sixteen years old ; it was his birthday, and that was the cause of all this festivity. The sailors were dancing upon deck ; and when the young prince came out, more than a hundred rockets rose into the air ; they shone like day, so that the little sea maid was quite startled, and dived under the water ; but soon she put out her head again, and then it seemed just as if all the stars of heaven were falling down upon her. She had never seen such fireworks. Great suns whirled around, glorious fiery fishes flew up into the blue air, and everything was mirrored in the clear blue sea. The ship itself