STRANGE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE MAIA 143
' Yes, I will come,' said Maia.
Then the swallow tore off one of the corn stalks with his strong beak, and bade her tie it safely to his wing. And they started off, flying, flying south for many a day.
Oh! how happy Maia was to see the beautiful earth again! A hundred times she longed for the swallow to stop, but he always told her that the best was yet to be; and they flew on and on, only halting for short rests, till they reached a place covered with tall white marble pillars, some standing high, wreathed in vines, out of which endless swallows' heads were peeping; others lying stretched among the flowers, white, yellow, and blue.
' I live up there,' said the swallow, pointing to the tallest of the pillars. ' But such a house would never do for you, as you would only fall out of it and kill yourself. So choose one of those flowers below, and you shall have it for your own, and sleep all night curled up in its leaves.'
' I will have that one,' answered Maia, pointing to a white flower shaped like a star, with a tiny crinkled wreath of red and yellow in its centre, and a long stem that swayed in the wind; ' that one is the prettiest of all, and it smells so sweet.' Then the swallow flew down towards it; but as they drew near they saw a tiny little manikin with a crown on his head, and wings on his shoulders, balancing himself on one of the leaves. ' Ah, that is the king of the flower-spirits,' whispered the swallow. And the king stretched out his hands to Maia, and helped her to jump from the swallow's back.
' I have waited for you for a long while,' said he, ' and now you have come at last to be my queen.'
And Maia smiled, and stood beside him as all the fairies that dwelt in the flowers ran to fetch presents for her; and the best of them all was a pair of lovely gauzy blue wings to help fly about like one of themselves.
So instead of marrying the mole, Little Maia was crowned a queen, and the fairies danced round her in a ring, while the swallow sang the wedding song.