THE LITTLE SEA MAID 83
At the prince's right hand she moved on, light as a soap-bubble, and he, like all the rest, was astonished at her graceful swaying movements.
She now received splendid clothes of silk and muslin. In the castle she was the most beautiful of all; but she was dumb, and could neither sing nor speak. Lovely slaves, dressed in silk and gold, stepped forward, and sang before the prince and his royal parents ; one sang more charmingly than all the rest, and the prince smiled at her and clapped his hands. Then the little sea maid became sad ; she knew that she herself had sung far more sweetly, and thought,
1 Oh! if only he could know that I have given away my voice for ever to be with him.'
Now the slaves danced pretty • waving dances to the loveliest music ; then the little sea maid lifted her beautiful white arms, stood on the tips of her toes, and glided dancing over the floor as no one had yet danced. At each movement her beauty became more apparent, and her eyes spoke more directly to the heart than the songs of the slaves.
All were delighted, and especially the prince, who called her his little foundling ; and she danced again and again, although every time she touched the earth it seemed as if she were treading upon sharp knives. The prince said that she should always remain with him, and she received permission to sleep on a velvet cushion before his door.
He had a page's dress made for her, that she might accompany him on horseback. They rode through the fragrant woods, where the green boughs swept their shoulders and the little birds sang in the fresh leaves. She climbed with the prince up the high mountains, and although her delicate feet bled so that even the others could see it, she laughed at it herself, and followed him until they saw the clouds sailing beneath them like a flock of birds travelling to distant lands.
At home in the prince's castle, when the others slept at night, she went out on to the broad marble steps. It cooled her burning feet to stand in the cold sea water, and then she thought of the dear ones in the deep.
Once, in the night-time, her sisters came arm in arm.