624 THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER
and the sunny land of my birth, my life, and my love ; and I loosened the band and let the bird soar away home to the father. Since that hour I have dreamed no more. I have slept a sleep, a long and heavy sleep, till in this hour harmony and incense awoke me and set me free.'
The green band from the heart of the mother to the bird's wings, where did it nutter now ? whither had it been wafted ? Only the Stork had seen it. The band was the green stalk, the bow at the end, the beauteous flower, the cradle of the child that had now bloomed into beauty and was once more resting on its mother's hea*rt.
And while the two were locked in each other's embrace, the old Stork flew around them in circles, and at length shot away towards his nest, whence he brought out the swan-feather suits he had preserved there for years, throwing one to each of them, and the feathers closed around them, so that they soared up from the earth in the semblance of two white swans.
' And now we will speak with one another,' quoth Stork-papa, ' now we understand each other, though the beak of one bird is differently shaped from that of another. It happens more than fortunately that you came to-night. To-morrow we should have been gone—mother, myself, and the young ones, for we are flying southward. Yes, only look at me ! I am an old friend from the land of the Nile, and mother has a heart larger than her beak. She always declared the Princess would find a way to help herself ; and I and the young ones carried the swans' feathers up here. But how glad I am ! and how fortunate that I'm here still! At dawn of day we shall move hence, a great company of storks. We'll fly first, and do you follow us ; thus you cannot miss your way ; moreover, I and the youngsters will keep a sharp eye upon you.'
c And the lotos flower which I was to bring with me/ said the Egyptian Princess, ' she is flying by my side in the swans' plumage ! I bring with me the flower of my heart; and thus the riddle has been read. Homeward ! homeward !'
But Helga declared she could not quit the Banish land before she had once more seen her foster-mother, the affectionate Viking woman. Every beautiful recollection,