622 THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER
through the deep valleys into the beaming mountain region, where dwell mercy and completeness. I cannot lead thee to Hedeby, to receive Christian baptism ; for, first, thou must burst the veil of waters over the deep moss, and draw forth the living source of thy being and of thy birth ; thou must exercise thy faculties in deeds before the consecration can be given thee.'
And he lifted her upon the horse, and gave her a golden censer similar to the one she had seen in the Viking's castle. The open wound in the forehead of the slain Christian shone like a diadem. He took the cross from the grave and held it aloft. And now they rode through the air, over the rustling wood, over the mounds where the old heroes lay buried, each on his dead war-horse ; and the mighty figures rose up and galloped forth, and stationed themselves on the summits of the mounds. The golden hoop on the forehead of each gleamed in the moonlight and their mantles floated in the night breeze. The dragon that guards buried treasures likewise lifted up his head and gazed after the riders. The gnomes and wood spirits peeped forth from beneath the hills and from between the furrows of the fields, and flitted to and fro with red, blue, and green torches, like the sparks in the ashes of a burned paper.
Over woodland and heath, over river and marsh they fled away, up to the wild moss ; and over this they hovered in wide circles. The Christian priest held the cross aloft : it gleamed like gold ; and from his lips dropped pious prayers. Beautiful Helga joined in the hymns he sang, like a child joining in its mother's song. She swung the censer, and a wondrous fragrance of incense streamed forth thence, so that the reeds and grass of the moss burst forth into blossom. Every germ came forth from the deep ground. All that had life lifted itself up. A veil of water-lilies spread itself forth like a carpet of wrought flowers, and upon this carpet lay a sleeping woman, young and beautiful. Helga thought it was her own likeness she saw upon the mirror of the calm waters. But it was her mother whom she beheld, the Marsh King's wife, the Princess from the banks of the Nile.
The dead priest commanded that the slumbering woman