THE LITTLE SEA MAID
Many an evening and many a morning she went up to the place where she had left the prince. She saw how the fruits of the garden grew ripe and were gathered ; she saw how the snow melted on the high mountain ; but she did not see the prince, and so she always returned home more sorrowful still. Then her only comfort was to sit in her little garden, and to wind her arms round the beautiful marble statue that resembled the prince ; but she did not tend her flowers ; they grew as if in a wilderness over the paths, and trailed their long leaves and stalks up into the branches of trees, so that it became quite dark there.
At last she could endure it no longer, and told all to one of her sisters, and then the others heard of it too ; but nobody knew of it beyond these and a few other sea maids, who told the secret to their intimate friends. One of these knew who the prince was ; she too had seen the festival on board the ship ; and she announced whence he came and where his kingdom lay.
' Come, little sister !' said the other princesses ; and, linking their arms together, they rose up in a long row out of the sea. at the place where they knew the prince's palace stood.
This palace was built of a kind of bright yellow stone, with great marble staircases, one of which led directly down into the sea. Over the roof rose splendid gilt cupolas, and between the pillars which surrounded the whole dwelling stood marble statues which looked as if they were alive. Through the clear glass in the high windows one looked into the glorious halls, where costly silk hangings and tapestries were hung up, and all the walls were decked with splendid pictures, so that it was a perfect delight to see them. In the midst of the greatest of these halls a great fountain plashed; its jets shot high up towards the glass dome in the ceiling, through which the sun shone down upon the water and upon the lovely plants growing in the great basin.
Now she knew where he lived, and many an evening and many a night she spent there on the water. She swam far closer to the land than any of the others would have dared to venture ; indeed, she went quite up the narrow channel under the splendid marble balcony, which threw a broad shadow upon the water. Here she sat and watched