THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER 613
get an arrow in our wings through that wild girl. Helga doesn't know in the least what she does. I wish she would only remember that we have lived here* longer than she, and that we have never forgotten our duty, and have given our toll every year, a feather, an egg, and a young one, as it was right we should do. Do you think I can now wander about in the courtyard and everywhere, as I used to in former days, and as I still do in Egypt, where I am almost the playfellow of the people, and that I can press into pot and kettle as I can yonder ? No, I sit up here and am angry at her, the stupid chit ! And I am angry at you too. You should have just left her lying in the water-lily, and she would have been dead long ago.'
' You are much better than your words,' said Stork-papa. ' I know you better than you know yourself.'
And with that he gave a hop, and napped his wings heavily twice, stretched out his legs behind him, and flew away, or rather sailed away, without moving his wings. He had already gone some distance when he gave a great flap ! The sun shone upon the white feathers, and his head and neck were stretched forth proudly. There was power in it, and dash !
' After all, he 's handsomer than any of them,' said Stork-mamma to herself ; ' but I don't tell him so.'
Early in that autumn the Viking came home, laden with booty, and bringing prisoners with him. Among these was a young Christian priest, one of those who contemned the gods of the North.
Often in those later times there had been a talk, in hall and chamber, of the new faith that was spreading far and wide in the South, and which, by means of Saint Ansgar, had penetrated as far as Hedeby on the Slie. Even Helga had heard of this belief in the White Christ who, from love to men and for their redemption, had sacrificed His life ; but with her all this had, as the saying is, gone in at one ear and come out at the other. It seemed as if she only understood the meaning of the word ' love ' when she crouched in a corner of the chamber in the form of a miserable frog ; but the Viking's wife had listened, and had felt