598 THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER
is still a great wild moss, about which we can read in the official description of the district. It is said that in old times there was here a sea, whose bottom was upheaved ; now the moss extends for miles on all sides, surrounded by damp meadows, and unsteady shaking swamp, and turfy moor, with blueberries and stunted trees. Mists are almost always hovering over this region, which seventy years ago was still inhabited by the wolves. It is certainly rightly called the ' wild moss ' ; and one can easily think how dreary and lonely it must have been, and how much marsh and lake there was here a thousand years ago. Yes, in detail, exactly the same things were seen then that may yet be beheld. The reeds had the same height, and bore the same kind of long leaves and bluish-brown feathery plumes that they bear now ; the birch stood there, with its white bark and its fine loosely-hanging leaves, just as now ; and as regards the living creatures that dwelt here— why, the fly wore its gauzy dress of the same cut that it wears now, and the favourite colours of the stork were white picked out with black, and red stockings. The people certainly wore coats of a different cut from those they now wear ; but whoever stepped out on the shaking moss, be he huntsman or follower, master or servant, met with the same fate a thousand years ago that he would meet with to-day. He sank and went down to the Marsh King, as they called him, who ruled below in the great empire of the moss. They also called him Quagmire King ; but we like the name Marsh King better, and by that name the storks also called him. Very little is known of the Marsh King's rule ; but perhaps that is a good thing.
In the neighbourhood of the moss, close by Limf jorden, lay the wooden house of the Viking, with its stone watertight cellars, with its tower and its three projecting stories. On the roof the Stork had built his nest, and Stork-mamma there hatched the eggs, and felt sure that her hatching would come to something.
One evening Stork-papa stayed out very late, and when he came home he looked very bustling and important.
1 I've something very terrible to tell you/ he said to the Stork-mamma.
4 Let that be,' she replied. 4 Remember that I'm hatching