The Little Mermaid (Excerpt)
"Yes, you are dear to me," said the prince;
"for you have the best heart, and you are the most devoted to me;
you are like a young maiden whom I once saw, but whom I shall never meet again.
I was in a ship that was wrecked, and the waves cast me ashore near a holy temple,
where several young maidens performed the service.
The youngest of them found me on the shore, and saved my life.
I saw her but twice, and she is the only one in the world whom I could love;
but you are like her, and you have almost driven her image out of my mind.
She belongs to the holy temple, and my good fortune has sent you to me instead of her;
and we will never part."
"Ah, he knows not that it was I who saved his life," thought the little mermaid.
"I carried him over the sea to the wood where the temple stands:
I sat beneath the foam, and watched till the human beings came to help him.
I saw the pretty maiden that he loves better than he loves me;" and the mermaid sighed deeply, but she could not shed tears.
"I must travel," he had said to her;
"I must see this beautiful princess; my parents desire it;
but they will not oblige me to bring her home as my bride.
I cannot love her; she is not like the beautiful maiden in the temple, whom you resemble.
If I were forced to choose a bride, I would rather choose you,
my dumb foundling, with those expressive eyes."
And then he kissed her rosy mouth, played with her long waving hair, and laid his head on her heart,
while she dreamed of human happiness and an immortal soul.
The next morning the ship sailed into the harbor of a beautiful town belonging to the king whom the prince was going to visit.
But the princess had not yet appeared.
People said that she was being brought up and educated in a religious house,
where she was learning every royal virtue.
At last she came.
"It was you," said the prince, "who saved my life when I lay dead on the beach,"
and he folded his blushing bride in his arms.
"Oh, I am so happy," said he to the little mermaid;
"my fondest hopes are all fulfilled. You will rejoice at my happiness;
for your devotion to me is great and sincere."
The little mermaid kissed his hand, and felt as if her heart were already broken.
His wedding morning would bring death to her, and she would change into the foam of the sea.
The little mermaid drew back the crimson curtain of the tent,
and beheld the fair bride with her head resting on the prince’s breast.
She bent down and kissed his fair brow,
then looked at the sky on which the rosy dawn grew brighter and brighter;
then she glanced at the sharp knife, and again fixed her eyes on the prince,
who whispered the name of his bride in his dreams.
She was in his thoughts, and the knife trembled in the hand of the little mermaid:
then she flung it far away from her into the waves;
the water turned red where it fell, and the drops that spurted up looked like blood.
She cast one more lingering, half-fainting glance at the prince,
and then threw herself from the ship into the sea, and thought her body was dissolving into foam.
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