THE LITTLE SEA MAID 77
the young prince, who thought himself quite alone in the bright moonlight. ~*
Many an evening she saw him sailing, amid the sounds of music, in his costly boat with the waving flags ; she peeped up through the green reeds, and when the wind caught her silver-white veil, and any one saw it, they thought it was a white swan spreading out its wings.
Many a night when the fishermen were on the sea with their torches, she heard much good told of the young prince ; and she rejoiced that she had saved his life when he was driven about, half dead, on the wild billows : she thought how quietly his head had reclined on her bosom, and how heartily she had kissed him ; but he knew nothing of it, and could not even dream of her.
More and more she began to love mankind, and more and more she wished to be able to wander about among those whose world seemed far larger than her own. For they could fly over the sea in ships, and mount up the high hills far above the clouds, and the lands they possessed stretched out in woods and fields farther than her eyes could reach. There was much she wished to know, but her sisters could not answer all her questions ; therefore she applied to the old grandmother ; and the old lady knew the upper world, which she rightly called ' the countries above the sea', very well.
1 If people are not drowned,' asked the little sea maid, ' can they live for ever ? Do they not die as we die down here in the sea ? '
' Yes,' replied the old lady. ' They too must die, and their life is even shorter than ours. We can live to be three hundred years old, but when we cease to exist here, we are turned into foam on the surface of the water, and have not even a grave down here among those we love. We have not an immortal soul ; we never receive another life ; we are like the green seaweed, which when once cut through can never bloom again. Men, on the contrary, have a soul which lives for ever, which lives on after the body has become dust ; it mounts up through the clear ajrTup, to all the shining stars-1 As we rise upTmtTof the waters and behold all the lands of the earth, so they rise up to unknown glorious places which we can never see.'