610 THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER
And therefore she had gone forth in the swan's plumage out of the land of Egypt up to the wild moss. And the Stork-papa and Stork-mamma knew all this ; and now we also know it more accurately than we knew it before. We know that the Marsh King had drawn her down to himself, and know that to those at home she is dead for ever. Only the wisest of them said, as the Stork-mamma said too, 1 She will manage to help herself ;' and they resolved to wait and see what would happen, for they knew of nothing better that they could do.
' I should like to take away the swans' feathers from the two faithless Princesses,' said the Stork-papa ; ' then at any rate, they will not be able to fly up again to the wild moss and do mischief. I'll hide the two swan-feather suits up there, till somebody has occasion for them.'
1 But where do you intend to hide them ? ' asked Stork-mamma.
' Up in our nest in the moss,' answered he. 'I and our young ones will take turns in carrying them up yonder on our return, and if that should prove too difficult for us, there are places enough on the way where we can conceal them till our next journey. Certainly, one suit of swan's feathers would be enough for the Princess, but two are always better. In those northern countries no one can have too many wraps.'
1 No one will thank you for it,' quoth Stork-mamma; * but you're the master. Except at breeding-time, I have nothing to say.'
In the Viking's castle by the wild moss, whither the Storks bent their flight when the spring approached, they had given the little girl the name of Helga ; but this name was too soft for a temper like that which went with her beauteous form. Month by month this temper showed itself more and more ; and in the course of years—during which the Storks made the same journey over and over again, in autumn to the Nile, in spring back to the moorland lake—the child grew to be a big girl; and before people were aware of it, she was a beautiful maiden in her sixteenth year. The shell was splendid, but the kernel was harsh and hard; harder even than most in those dark,