178 THE MERMAID AND THE BOY
learned how clever and how wicked he was, and something whispered to her that it was he who would gain the credit of having carried back the sword, and would claim her as his bride, though he had never even entered her chamber. And she could do nothing ; for although the king loved her, he never let her stand in the way of his plans.
The poor princess was only too right, and everything came to pass exactly as she had foreseen it. The king told her that the Eed Knight had won her fairly, and that the wedding would take place next day, and there would be a great feast after it.
In those days feasts were much longer and more splendid than they are now; and it was growing dark when the princess, tired out with all she had gone through, stole up to her own room for a little quiet. But the moon was shining so brightly over the sea that it seemed to draw her towards it, and taking her violin under her arm, she crept down to the shore.
' Listen ! listen ! said the mermaid to the prince, who was lying stretched on a bed of seaweeds at the bottom of the sea. ' Listen ! that is your old love playing, for mermaids know everything that happens upon earth.'
' I hear nothing,' answered the youth, who did not look happy. ' Take me up higher, where the sounds can reach me.'
So the mermaid took him on her shoulders and bore him up midway to the surface. ' Can you hear now ?' she asked.
' No,' answered the prince, ' I hear nothing but the water rushing ; I must go higher still.'
Then the mermaid carried him to the very top. ' You must surely be able to hear noiv ?' said she.
' Nothing but the water,' repeated the youth. So she took him right to the land.
' At any rate you can hear now ? ' she said again.
' The water is still rushing in my ears/ answered he; ' but wait a little, that will soon pass off.' And as he