THE GOLDEN MERMAID. 333
When she drew near the boat he saw that she was far more beautiful than any mortal he had ever beheld. She swam round the ship for some time and then swung herself gracefully on board, in order to examine the beautiful silken stuffs more closely. Then the prince seized her in his arms, and kissing her tenderly on the cheeks and lips, he told her she svas his forever. At the same moment the boat turned into a wolf again, which so terrified the mermaid that she clung to the prince for protection.
So the golden mermaid was successfully caught, and she soon felt quite happy in her new life when she saw she had nothing to fear either from the prince or the wolf— she rode on the back of the latter and the prince rode behind her. When they reached the country ruled over by the emperor with the golden horse the prince jumped down, and helping the mermaid to alight, he led her before the emperor. At the sight of the beautiful mermaid and of the grim wolf, who stuck close to the prince this time, the guards all made respectful obeisance, and soon the three stood before his imperial majesty. When the emperor heard from the prince how he had gained possession of his fair prize, he at once recognized that he had been helped by some magic art, and on the spot gave up all claim to the beautiful mermaid.
"Dear youth," he said, "forgive me for my shameful conduct to you, and as a sign that you pardon me accept the golden horse as a present. I acknowledge your power to be greater even than I can understand, for you have succeeded in gaining possession of the golden mermaid, whom hitherto no mortal has ever been able to approach." Then they all sat down to a huge feast, and the prince had to relate his adventures all over again, to the wonder and astonishment of the whole company.
But the prince was wearying now to return to his own kingdom, so as soon as the feast was over he took farewell of the emperor and set out on his homeward way. He lifted the mermaid on to the golden horse and swung himself up behind her—and so they rode on merrily, with the wolf trotting behind, till they came to the country of the emperor with the golden bird. The renown of the prince and his adventure had gone before him, and the emperor sat on his throne awaiting the arrival of the prince and bis companions. When the three rode into the court-yard