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The light princess.
Start of Story
"So I am," said the prince. "I blacked your little boots three times a
day, because they were all I could get of you. Put me in."
The courtiers did not resent his bluntness, except by saying to each
other that he was taking it out in impudence.
But how was he to be put in? The golden plate contained no instructions
on this point. The prince looked at the hole, and saw but one way. He
put both his legs into it, sitting on the stone, and, stooping forward,
covered the corner that remained open with his two hands. In this
uncomfortable position he resolved to abide his fate, and turning to the
"Now you can go."
The king had already gone home to dinner.
"Now you can go," repeated the princess after him, like a parrot.
The people obeyed her and went.
Presently a little wave flowed over the stone, and wetted one of the
prince's knees. But he did not mind it much. He began to sing, and the
song he sang was this:
"As a world that has no well,
Darkly bright in forest dell;
As a world without the gleam
Of the downward-going stream;
As a world without the glance
Of the ocean's fair expanse;
As a world where never rain
Glittered on the sunny plain;--
Such, my heart, thy world would be,
If no love did flow in thee.
"As a world without the sound
Of the rivulets underground;
Or the bubbling of the spring
Out of darkness wandering;
Or the mighty rush and flowing
Of the river's downward going;
Or the music-showers that drop
On the outspread beech's top;
Or the ocean's mighty voice,
When his lifted waves rejoice;--Such,
my soul, thy world would be,
If no love did sing in thee.
"Lady, keep thy world's delight,
Keep the waters in thy sight
Love hath made me strong to go,
For thy sake, to realms below,
Where the water's shine and hum
Through the darkness never come.
Let, I pray, one thought of me
Spring, a little well, in thee;
Lest thy loveless soul be found
Like a dry and thirsty ground."
"Sing again, prince. It makes it less tedious," said the princess.
But the prince was too much overcome to sing any more, and a long pause
"This is very kind of you, prince," said the princess at last, quite
coolly, as she lay in the boat with her eyes shut.
"I am sorry I can't return the compliment," thought the prince, "but you
are worth dying for, after all."
Again a wavelet, and another, and another flowed over the stone, and
wetted both the prince's knees; but he did not speak or move.
Two--three--four hours passed in this way, the princess apparently
asleep, and the prince very patient. But he was much disappointed in his
position, for he had none of the consolation he had hoped for.
At last he could bear it no longer.
"Princess!" said he.
But at the moment up started the princess, crying:
"I'm afloat! I'm afloat!"
And the little boat bumped against the stone.
"Princess!" repeated the prince, encouraged by seeing her wide awake and
looking eagerly at the water.
"Well?" said she, without looking round.
"Your papa promised that you should look at me, and you haven't looked
at me once."
"Did he? Then I suppose I must. But I am so sleepy!"
"Sleep, then, darling, and don't mind me," said the poor prince.
"Really, you are very good," replied the princess. "I think I will go to
"Just give me a glass of wine and a biscuit first," said the prince,
"With all my heart," said the princess, and yawned as she said it.
She got the wine and the biscuit, however, and leaning over the side of
the boat towards him, was compelled to look at him.
"Why, prince," she said, "you don't look well! Are you sure you don't
"Not a bit," answered he, feeling very faint indeed. "Only I shall die
before it is of any use to you, unless I have something to eat,"
"There, then," said she, holding out the wine to him.
"Ah! you must feed me. I dare not move my hands. The water would run
"Good gracious!" said the princess; and she began at once to feed him
with bits of biscuit and sips of wine.
As she fed him, he contrived to kiss the tips of her fingers now and
then. She did not seem to mind it, one way or the other. But the prince
"Now, for your own sake, princess," said he, "I cannot let you go to
sleep. You must sit and look at me, else I shall not be able to keep
"Well, I will do anything to oblige you," answered she, with
condescension; and, sitting down, she did look at him, and kept looking
at him with wonderful steadiness, considering all things.
The sun went down, and the moon rose, and, gush after gush, the waters
were rising up the prince's body. They were up to his waist now.
"Why can't we go and have a swim?" said the princess. "There seems to be
water enough just about here."
"I shall never swim more," said the prince.
"Oh, I forgot," said the princess, and was silent.
So the water grew and grew, and rose up and up on the prince. And the
princess sat and looked at him. She fed him now and then. The night wore
on. The waters rose and rose. The moon rose likewise higher and higher,
and shone full on the face of the dying prince. The water was up to his
"Will you kiss me, princess?" said he, feebly. The nonchalance was all
"Yes, I will," answered the princess, and kissed him with a long, sweet,
"Now," said he, with a sigh of content, "I die happy."