THE LITTLE SEA MAID 79
a broad stream, and on this the sea-men and sea women danced to their own charming songs. Such beautiful voices the people of the earth have not. The li£tle sea maid sang the most sweetly of all, and the whole court applauded her, and for a moment she felt gay in her heart, for she knew she had the loveliest voice of all in the sea or on the earth. But soon she thought again of the world above her; she could not forget the charming prince, or her sorrow at not having an immortal soul like his. Therefore she crept out of her father's palace, and while everything within was joy and gladness, she sat melancholy in her little garden. Then she heard the bugle horn sounding through the waters, and thought, ' Now he is certainly sailing above, he whom I love more than father or mother, he on whom my wishes hang, and in whose hand I should like to lay my life's happiness. I will dare everything to win him and an immortal soul. While my sisters dance yonder in my father's palace, I will go to the sea witch of whom I have always been so much afraid : perhaps she can counsel and help me.'
Now the little sea maid went out of her garden to the foaming whirlpools behind which the sorceress dwelt. She had never travelled that way before. No flowers grew there, no sea grass ; only the bare grey sand stretched out towards the whirlpools, where the water rushed round like roaring mill-wheels and tore down everything it seized into the deep. Through the midst of these rushing whirlpools she wTas obliged to pass to get into the domain of the witch ; and for a long way there was no other road except one which led over warm bubbling mud : this the witch called her peat-moss. Behind it lay her house in the midst of a singular forest, in which all the trees and bushes were polypes—half animals, half plants. They looked like hundred-headed snakes growing up out of the earth. All the branches were long slimy arms, with ringers like supple snakes, and they moved joint by joint from the root to the farthest point; all that they could seize on in the water they held fast and never again let it go. The little sea maid stopped in front of them quite frightened ; her heart beat with fear, and she was nearly turning back ; but then she thought of the prince and the human soul,