626 THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER
of clubs and swords, and with the hissing of arrows, as if a hail-storm were passing across it. The hour was come when earth and sky were to burst, the stars to fall, and all things to be swallowed up in Surfs sea of fire ; but she knew that there would be a new heaven and a new earth, that the cornfields then would wave where now the ocean rolled over the desolate tracts of sand, and that the unutterable God would reign ; and up to Him rose Balder the gentle, the affectionate, delivered from the kingdom of the dead: he came; the Viking woman saw him and recognized his countenance ; it was that of the captive Christian priest. ' White Christ ! ' she cried aloud, and with these words she pressed a kiss upon the forehead of the hideous frog-child. Then the frog-skin fell off, and Helga stood revealed in all her beauty, lovely and gentle as she had never appeared, and with beaming eyes. She kissed her foster-mother's hands, blessed her for all the care and affection lavished during the days of bitterness and trial, for the thought she had awakened and cherished in her, for naming the name, which she repeated, ' White Christ;' and beauteous Helga arose in the form of a mighty swan, and spread her white wings with a rushing like the sound of a troop of birds of passage winging their way through the air.
The Viking woman awoke, and she heard the same noise without still continuing. She knew it was the time for the storks to depart, and that it must be those birds whose wings she heard. She wished to see them once more, and to bid them farewell as they set forth on their journey. Therefore she rose from her couch and stepped out upon the threshold, and on the top of the gable she saw stork ranged behind stork, and around the castle, over the high trees, flew bands of storks wheeling in wide circles ; but opposite her, by the well where Helga had often sat and alarmed her with her wildness, sat two white swans gazing at her with intelligent eyes. And she remembered her dream, which still filled her soul as if it were reality. She thought of Helga in the shape of a swan, and of the Christian priest; and suddenly she felt her heart rejoice within her.
The swans flapped their wings and arched their necks, as if they would send her a greeting, and the Viking's