THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER 621
earth around the grave ; and as she wrote the sign with both her hands, the webbed skin fell from them like a torn glove ; and when she washed her hands in the woodland spring, and gazed in wonder at her fine white hands, she again made the holy sign in the air between herself and the dead man ; then her lips trembled, the holy name that had been preached to her during the ride from the forest came to her mouth, and she pronounced it audibly.
Then the frog-skin fell from her, and she was once more the beauteous maiden. But her head sank wearily, her tired limbs required rest, and she slept.
Her sleep, however, was short. Towards midnight she awoke. Before her stood the dead horse, beaming and full of life, which gleamed forth from his eyes and from his wounded neck ; close beside the creature stood the murdered Christian priest, ' more beautiful than Balder,' the Viking woman would have said ; and yet he seemed to stand in a flame of fire.
Such gravity, such an air of justice, such a piercing look shone out of his great mild eyes, that their glance seemed to penetrate every corner of her heart. Little Helga trembled at the look, and her remembrance awoke as though she stood before the tribunal of judgement. Every good deed that had been done for her, every loving word that had been spoken, seemed endowed with life : she understood that it had been love that kept her here during the days of trial, during which the creature formed of dust and spirit, soul and earth, combats and struggles ; she acknowledged that she had only followed the leading of temper, and had done nothing for herself ; everything had been given her, everything had been guided by Providence. She bowed herself humbly, confessing her own deep imperfection in the presence of the Power that can read every thought of the heart—and then the priest spoke.
1 Thou daughter of the moss,' he said, ' out of the earth, out of the moor, thou earnest ; but from the earth thou shalt arise. The sunbeam in you, which comes not from the sun, but from God, will go back to its origin, conscious of the body it has inhabited. No soul shall be lost, but time is long ; it is the course of life through eternity. I come from the land of the dead. Thou, too, shalt pass