600 THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER
two rose up and flew away with her swan's plumage. " Do thou dive down ! " they cried ; " thou shalt never fly more in swan's form, thou shalt never see Egypt again ! Remain thou there in the moss ! " And so saying, they tore the swan's plumage into a hundred pieces, so that the feathers whirled about like a snow-storm ; and away they flew— the two faithless Princesses ! '
1 Why, that is terrible ! ' said Stork-mamma. ' I can't bear to hear it. But now tell me what happened next.'
' The Princess wept and lamented. Her tears fell fast on the elder stump, and the latter moved, for it was the Marsh King himself—he who lives in the moss ! I myself saw it—how the stump of the tree turned round, and ceased to be a tree stump ; long thin branches grew forth from it like arms. Then the poor child was terribly frightened, and sprang away on to the green slimy ground ; but that cannot even carry me, much less her. She sank immediately, and the elder stump dived down too ; and it was he who drew her down. Great black bubbles rose up, and there was no more trace of them. Now the Princess is buried in the wild moss, and never more will she bear away a flower to Egypt. Your heart would have burst, mother, if you had seen it.'
* You ought not to tell me anything of the kind at such a time as this,' said Stork-mamma ; ' the eggs might suffer by it. The Princess will find some way of escape ; some one will come to help her. If it had been you or I, or one of our people, it would certainly have been all over with us/
* But I shall go and look every day to see if anything happens,' said Stork-papa.
And he was as good as his word.
A long time had passed, when at last he saw a green stalk shooting up out of the deep moss. When it reached the surface a leaf spread out and unfolded itself broader and broader; close by it, a bud came out. And one morning, when the Stork flew over the stalk, the bud opened through the power of the strong sunbeams, and in the cup of the flower lay a beautiful child—a little girl— looking just as if she had risen out of the bath. The little one so closely resembled the Princess from Egypt, that at the first moment the Stork thought it must be the Princess