616 THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER
in a rapid trot they rode on a way which he would never have found, out on to the open heath.
He thought not of her hideous form, but felt how the mercy and loving-kindness of the Almighty were working by means of this monster apparition ; he prayed pious prayers and sang songs of praise. Then she trembled. Was it the power of song and of prayer that worked in her, or was she shuddering at the cold morning twilight that was approaching ? What were her feelings ? She raised herself up, and wanted to stop the horse and to alight; but the Christian priest held her back with all his strength, and sang a psalm, as if that would have the power to loosen the charm that turned her into the hideous semblance of a frog. And the horse galloped on more wildly than ever ; the sky turned red, the first sunbeam pierced through the clouds, and as the flood of light came streaming down, the frog changed its nature. Helga was again the beautiful maiden with the wicked, demoniac spirit. He held a beautiful maiden in his arms, but was horrified at the sight : he swung himself from the horse, and compelled it to stand. This seemed to him a new and terrible sorcery; but Helga likewise leaped from the saddle, and stood on the ground. The child's short garment reached only to her knee. She plucked the sharp knife from her girdle, and rushed in upon the astonished priest.
' Let me get at thee ! ' she screamed ; ' let me get at thee, and plunge this knife in thy body ! Thou art pale as straw, thou beardless slave ! '
She pressed in upon him. They struggled together in a hard strife, but an invisible power seemed given to the Christian captive. He held her fast; and the old oak tree beneath which they stood came to his assistance ; for its roots, which projected over the ground, held fast the maiden's feet that had become entangled in it. Quite close to them gushed a spring ; and he sprinkled Helga's face and neck with the fresh water, and commanded the unclean spirit to come forth, and blessed her in the Christian fashion ; but the water of faith has no power when the well-spring of faith flows not from within.
And yet the Christian showed his power even now, and opposed more than the mere might of a man against the