THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER 623
should be lifted upon the horse ; but .the horse sank under the burden, as though its body had been a cloth fluttering in the wind. But the holy sign gave strength to the airy phantom, and then the three rode from the moss to the firm land.
Then the cock crowed in the Viking's castle, and the phantom shapes dissolved and floated away in air ; but mother and daughter stood opposite each other.
' Is it myself that I see in the deep waters ? ' asked the mother.
1 Is it myself that I see reflected on the clear mirror ? ' exclaimed the daughter.
And they approached one another and embraced. The heart of the mother beat quickest, and she understood it.
' My child ! thou flower of my own heart ! my lotos flower of the deep waters ! '
And she embraced her child anew, and wept ; and the tears were as a new baptism of life and love to Helga.
' In the swan's plumage came I hither,' said the mother, ' and threw it off. I sank through the shaking mud, far down into the black slime, which closed like a wall around me. But soon I felt a fresher stream ; a power drew me down, deeper and ever deeper. I felt the weight of sleep upon my eyelids ; I slumbered, and dreams hovered round me. It seemed to me that I was again in the pyramid in Egypt, and yet the waving alder trunk that had frightened me up in the moss was ever before me. I looked at the clefts and wrinkles in the stem, and they shone forth in colours and took the form of hieroglyphics : it was the case of the mummy at which I was gazing ; the case burst, and forth stepped the thousand-year old King, the mummied form, black as pitch, shining black as the wood snail or the fat mud of the swamp : whether it was the Marsh King or the mummy of the pyramids I knew not. He seized me in his arms, and I felt as if I must die. When I returned to consciousness a little bird was sitting on my bosom, beating with its wings, and twittering and singing. The bird flew away from me up towards the heavy, dark covering, but a long green band still fastened him to me. I heard and understood his longing tones : " Freedom ! Sunlight ! To my father ! ' Then I thought of my father