82 THE LITTLE SEA MAID
At last the draught was ready. It looked like the purest water.
* There you have it/ said the witch.
And she cut off the little sea maid's tongue, so that now she was dumb, and could neither sing nor speak.
' If the polypes should lay hold of you when you are returning through my forest/ said the witch, ' just cast a single drop of this liquor upon them, and their arms and fingers will fly into a thousand pieces.' But the little sea maid had no need to do this: the polypes drew back in terror when they saw the shining liquor, that gleamed in her hand as if it were a twinkling star. In this way she soon passed through the forest, the moss, and the rushing whirlpools.
She could see her father's palace. The torches were extinguished in the great dancing-hall, and they were certainly sleeping within, but she did not dare to go to them, now that she was dumb and was about to quit them for ever. She felt as if her heart would burst with sorrow. She crept into the garden, took a flower from each of her sisters' flower-beds, blew a thousand kisses towards the palace, and rose up through the dark blue sea.
The sun had not yet risen when she beheld the prince's castle and mounted the splendid marble staircase. The moon shone beautifully clear. The little sea maid drank the burning sharp draught, and it seemed as if a two-edged sword went through her delicate body. She fell down in a swoon, and lay as if she were dead. When the sun shone out over the sea she awoke, and felt a sharp pain ; but just before her stood the handsome young prince. He fixed his coal-black eyes upon her, so that she cast down her own, and then she perceived that her fishtail was gone, and that she had the prettiest pair of white feet a little girl could have. But she had no clothes, so she shrouded herself in her long hair. The prince asked who she was and how she had come there ; and she looked at him mildly, but very mournfully, with her dark blue eyes, for she could not speak. Then he took her by the hand, and led her into the castle. Each step she took was, as the witch had told her, ss if she had been treading on pointed needles and sharp knives, but she bore it gladly.