86 THE LITTLE SEA MAID
balls and entertainments followed one another; but the princess was not yet there. People said she was being educated in a holy temple far away, where she was learning every royal virtue. At last she arrived.
The little sea maid was anxious to see the beauty of the princess, and was obliged to acknowledge it. A more lovely apparition she had never beheld. The princess's skin was pure and clear, and behind the long dark eyelashes there smiled a pair of faithful dark blue eyes.
' You are the lady who saved me when I lay like a corpse upon the shore !' said the prince ; and he folded his blushing bride to his heart. ' Oh, I am too, too happy !' he cried to the little sea maid. ' The best hope I could have is fulfilled. You will rejoice at my happiness, for you are the most devoted to me of them all!'
And the little sea maid kissed his hand ; and it seemed already to her as if her heart was broken, for his wedding morning was to bring death to her, and change her into foam on the sea.
All the church bells were ringing, and heralds rode about the streets announcing the betrothal. On every altar fragrant oil was burning in gorgeous lamps of silver. The priests swung their censers, and bride and bridegroom laid hand in hand, and received the bishop's blessing. The little sea maid was dressed in cloth of gold, and held up the bride's train ; but her ears heard nothing of the festive music, her eye marked not the holy ceremony ; she thought of the night of her death, and of all that she had lost in this world.
On the same evening the bride and bridegroom went on board the ship. The cannon roared, all the flags waved ; in the midst of the ship a costly tent of gold and purple, with the most beautiful cushions, had been set up, and there the married pair were to sleep in the cool still night.
The sails swelled in the wind and the ship glided smoothly and lightly over the clear sea. When it grew dark, coloured lamps were lighted and the sailors danced merry dances on deck. The little sea maid thought of the first time when she had risen up out of the sea, and beheld a similar scene of splendour and joy; and she joined in the whirling dance, and flitted on as the swallow flits away when he is pur-