THE LITTLE SEA MAID 85
to be his wife, and that was why such- a beautiful ship was being prepared. The story was, that th^ prince travelled to visit the land of the neighbouring king, but it was done that he might see the king's daughter. A great company was to go with him. The little sea maid shook her head and smiled; she knew the prince's thoughts far better than any of the others.
' I must travel,' he had said to her; ' I must see the beautiful princess : my parents desire it, but they do not wish to compel me to bring her home as my bride. I cannot love her. She is not like the beautiful maiden in the temple, whom you resemble. If I were to choose a bride, I would rather choose you, my dear dumb foundling with the speaking eyes.'
And he kissed her red lips and played with her long hair, so that she dreamed of happiness and of an immortal soul.
* You are not afraid of the sea, my dumb child ? ' said he, when they stood on the superb ship which was to carry him to the country of the neighbouring king ; and he told her of storm and calm, of strange fishes in the deep, and of what the divers had seen there. And she smiled at his tales, for she knew better than any one what there was at the bottom of the sea.
In the moonlight night, when all were asleep, except the steersman who stood by the helm, she sat on the side of the ship gazing down through the clear water. She fancied she saw her father's palace. High on the battlements stood her old grandmother, with the silver crown on her head, and looking through the rushing tide up to the vessel's keel. Then her sisters came forth over the water, and looked mournfully at her and wrung their white hands. She beckoned to them, smiled, and wished to tell them that she was well and happy ; but the cabin-boy approached her, and her sisters dived down, so that he thought the white objects he had seen were foam on the surface of the water.
The next morning the ship sailed into the harbour of the neighbouring king's splendid city. All the church bells sounded, and from the high towers the trumpets were blown, while the soldiers stood there with flying colours and flashing bayonets. Each day brought some festivity with it;