THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER 633
it : it floated quite close to her. It was the spirit of the dead Christian priest; he too was comjng to her wedding feast—coming from heaven.
' The glory and brightness yonder outshines everything that is known on earth ! ' he said.
And fair Helga begged so fervently, so beseechingly, as she had never yet prayed, that it might be permitted her to gaze in there for one single moment, that she might be allowed to cast but a single glance into the brightness that beamed in the kingdom of heaven.
Then he bore her up amid splendour and glory. Not only around her, but within her, sounded voices and beamed a brightness that words cannot express.
' Now we must go back ; thou wilt be missed,' he said.
' Only one more look ! ' she begged. ' But one short minute more ! '
* We must go back to the earth. The guests will all depart.'
' Only one more look—the last.'
And Helga stood again in the verandah ; but the marriage lights without had vanished, and the lamps in the hall were extinguished, and the storks were gone— nowhere a guest to be seen—no bridegroom—all seemed to have been swept away in those few short minutes !
Then a great dread came upon her. Alone she went through the empty great hall into the next chamber. Strange warriors slept yonder. She opened a side door which led into her own chamber, and, as she thought to step in there, she suddenly found herself in the garden ; but yet it had not looked thus here before—the sky gleamed red—the morning dawn was come.
Three minutes only in heaven and a whole night on earth had passed away !
Then she saw the Storks again. She called to them and spoke their language ; and Stork-papa turned his head towards her, listened to her words, and drew near.
1 You speak our language,' he said ; ' what do you wish ? Why do you appear here—you, a strange woman ? '
' It is I—it is Helga—dost thou not know me ? Three minutes ago we were speaking together yonder in the verandah ! '