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The light princess.
Start of Story
Early the next morning the prince set out to look for something to eat,
which he soon found at a forester's hut, where for many following days
he was supplied with all that a brave prince could consider necessary.
And having plenty to keep him alive for the present, he would not think
of wants not yet in existence. Whenever Care intruded, this prince
always bowed him out in the most princely manner.
When he returned from his breakfast to his watch-cave, he saw the
princess already floating about in the lake, attended by the king and
queen--whom he knew by their crowns--and a great company in lovely
little boats, with canopies of all the colours of the rainbow, and flags
and streamers of a great many more. It was a very bright day, and the
prince, burned up with the heat, began to long for the cold water and
the cool princess. But he had to endure till twilight; for the boats had
provisions on board, and it was not till the sun went down that the gay
party began to vanish. Boat after boat drew away to the shore, following
that of the king and queen, till only one, apparently the princess's own
boat, remained. But she did not want to go home even yet, and the prince
thought he saw her order the boat to the shore without her. At all
events it rowed away; and now, of all the radiant company, only one
white speck remained. Then the prince began to sing.
Lift thine eyes,
By the might
Of thine eyes.
Oars of snow,
Oar her hither,
Soft and slow,
Oar her hither.
"Stream behind her
O'er the lake,
In her wake
Following, following, for her sake,
"Cling about her,
Part not from her,
Cold and true
Kisses round her.
"Lap me round,
That have left her
Make me glad,
For ye had
Kissed her ere ye left her."
Before he had finished his song, the princess was just under the place
where he sat, and looking up to find him. Her ears had led her truly.
"Would you like a fall, princess?" said the prince, looking down.
"Ah! there you are! Yes, if you please, prince," said the princess,
"How do you know I am a prince, princess?" said the prince.
"Because you are a very nice young man, prince," said the princess.
"Come up then, princess."
"Fetch me, prince."
The prince took off his scarf, then his swordbelt then his tunic, and
tied them all together, and let them down. But the line was far too
short. He unwound his turban, and added it to the rest, when it was all
but long enough; and his purse completed it. The princess just managed
to lay hold of the knot of money, and was beside him in a moment. This
rock was much higher than the other, and the splash and the dive were
tremendous. The princess was in ecstasies of delight, and their swim was
Night after night they met, and swam about in the dark clear lake, where
such was the prince's gladness, that (whether the princess's way of
looking at things infected him, or he was actually getting light-headed)
he often fancied that he was swimming in the sky instead of the lake.
But when he talked about being in heaven, the princess laughed at him
When the moon came, she brought them fresh pleasure. Everything looked
strange and new in her light, with an old, withered, yet unfading
newness. When the moon was nearly full, one of their great delights was
to dive deep in the water, and then, turning round, look up through it
at the great blot of light close above them, shimmering and trembling
and wavering, spreading and contracting, seeming to melt away, and again
grow solid. Then they would shoot up through the blot, and lo! there was
the moon, far off, clear and steady and cold, and very lovely, at the
bottom of a deeper and bluer lake than theirs, as the princess said.
The prince soon found out that while in the water the princess was very
like other people. And besides this, she was not so forward in her
questions or pert in her replies at sea as on shore. Neither did she
laugh so much; and when she did laugh, it was more gently. She seemed
altogether more modest and maidenly in the water than out of it. But
when the prince, who had really fallen in love when he fell in the lake,
began to talk to her about love, she always turned her head towards him
and laughed. After a while she began to look puzzled, as if she were
trying to understand what he meant, but could not--revealing a notion
that he meant something. But as soon as ever she left the lake, she was
so altered, that the prince said to himself, "If I marry her, I see no
help for it: we must turn merman and mermaid, and go out to sea at
The princess's pleasure in the lake had grown to a passion, and she
could scarcely bear to be out of it for an hour. Imagine then her
consternation, when, diving with the prince one night, a sudden
suspicion seized her that the lake was not so deep as it used to be. The
prince could not imagine what had happened. She shot to the surface,
and, without a word, swam at full speed towards the higher side of the
lake. He followed, begging to know if she was ill, or what was the
matter. She never turned her head, or took the smallest notice of his
question. Arrived at the shore, she coasted the rocks with minute
inspection. But she was not able to come to a conclusion, for the moon
was very small, and so she could not see well. She turned therefore and
swam home, without saying a word to explain her conduct to the prince,
of whose presence she seemed no longer conscious. He withdrew to his
cave, in great perplexity and distress.