I cannot love her; she is not like the beautiful maiden in the temple, whom you resemble. But he must not die. She fastened her long flowing hair round her head, so that the polypi might not seize hold of it. But the princess had not yet appeared. The sea here formed a little bay, in which the water was quite still, but very deep; so she swam with the handsome prince to the beach, which was covered with fine, white sand, and there she laid him in the warm sunshine, taking care to raise his head higher than his body. We must not imagine that there is nothing at the bottom of the sea but bare yellow sand. The waves rose mountains high, as if they would have overtopped the mast; but the ship dived like a swan between them, and then rose again on their lofty, foaming crests. She also swam towards the sun; but it sunk into the waves, and the rosy tints faded from the clouds and from the sea. They had more beautiful voices than any human being could have; and before the approach of a storm, and when they expected a ship would be lost, they swam before the vessel, and sang sweetly of the delights to be found in the depths of the sea, and begging the sailors not to fear if they sank to the bottom. As soon as the eldest was fifteen, she was allowed to rise to the surface of the ocean. She has given us a knife:
She saw her sisters rising out of the flood: If I were forced to choose a bride, I would rather choose you, my dumb foundling, with those expressive eyes. She saw that each held in its grasp something it had seized with its numerous little arms, as if they were iron bands. The church bells were ringing, and from the high towers sounded a flourish of trumpets; and soldiers, with flying colors and glittering bayonets, lined the rocks through which they passed. The sea looked quite green, and large icebergs were floating about, each like a pearl, she said, but larger and loftier than the churches built by men. On the ship, in which she had left the prince, there were life and noise; she saw him and his beautiful bride searching for her; sorrowfully they gazed at the pearly foam, as if they knew she had thrown herself into the waves. The sailors were dancing on deck, but when the prince came out of the cabin, more than a hundred rockets rose in the air, making it as bright as day. Once during the night her sisters came up arm-in-arm, singing sorrowfully, as they floated on the water. The little mermaid swam out farther from the shore and placed herself between some high rocks that rose out of the water; then she covered her head and neck with the foam of the sea so that her little face might not be seen, and watched to see what would become of the poor prince. In the midst of this spot stood a house, built with the bones of shipwrecked human beings. At length she could bear it no longer, and told one of her sisters all about it. If you will bear all this, I will help you. A dreadful storm was approaching; once more the sails were reefed, and the great ship pursued her flying course over the raging sea. I cannot love her; she is not like the beautiful maiden in the temple, whom you resemble. Orange and citron trees grew in the garden, and before the door stood lofty palms. Her grandmother called the little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for she had never seen birds. We must not imagine that there is nothing at the bottom of the sea but bare yellow sand. The white skeletons of human beings who had perished at sea, and had sunk down into the deep waters, skeletons of land animals, oars, rudders, and chests of ships were lying tightly grasped by their clinging arms; even a little mermaid, whom they had caught and strangled; and this seemed the most shocking of all to the little princess. Unseen she kissed the forehead of her bride, and fanned the prince, and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the aether. Then the witch placed her cauldron on the fire, to prepare the magic draught. The little mermaid sang more sweetly than them all. You have the sweetest voice of any who dwell here in the depths of the sea, and you believe that you will be able to charm the prince with it also, but this voice you must give to me; the best thing you possess will I have for the price of my draught. A great company were to go with him. She saw the fruits in the garden ripen till they were gathered, the snow on the tops of the mountains melt away; but she never saw the prince, and therefore she returned home, always more sorrowful than before. The sea here formed a little bay, in which the water was quite still, but very deep; so she swam with the handsome prince to the beach, which was covered with fine, white sand, and there she laid him in the warm sunshine, taking care to raise his head higher than his body. The whole court applauded her with hands and tails; and for a moment her heart felt quite gay, for she knew she had the loveliest voice of any on earth or in the sea. She now came to a space of marshy ground in the wood, where large, fat water-snakes were rolling in the mire, and showing their ugly, drab-colored bodies.
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