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《海的女兒》中英對照


在海的遠處,水是那么藍,像最美麗的矢車菊花瓣,同時又是那么清,像最明亮的玻璃。然而它是很深很深,深得任何錨鏈都達不到底。要想從海底一直達到水面,必須有許多許多教堂尖塔一個接著一個地聯起來才成。海底的人就住在這下面。
  不過人們千萬不要以為那兒只是一片鋪滿了白砂的海底。不是的,那兒生長著最奇異的樹木和植物。它們的枝干和葉子是那么柔軟,只要水輕微地流動一下,它們就搖動起來,好像它們是活著的東西。所有的大小魚兒在這些枝子中間游來游去,像是天空的飛鳥。海里最深的地方是海王宮殿所在的處所。它的墻是用珊瑚砌成的,它那些尖頂的高窗子是用最亮的琥珀做成的;不過屋頂上卻鋪著黑色的蚌殼,它們隨著水的流動可以自動地開合。這是怪好看的,國為每一顆蚌殼里面含有亮晶晶的珍珠。隨便哪一顆珍珠都可以成為皇后帽子上最主要的裝飾品。
  住在那底下的海王已經做了好多年的鰥夫,但是他有老母親為他管理家務。她是一個聰明的女人,可是對于自己高貴的出身總是感到不可一世,因此她的尾巴上老戴著一打的牡蠣——其余的顯貴只能每人戴上半打。除此以外,她是值得大大的稱贊的,特別是因為她非常愛那些小小的海公主——她的一些孫女。她們是六個美麗的孩子,而她們之中,那個頂小的要算是最美麗的了。她的皮膚又光又嫩,像玫瑰的花瓣,她的眼睛是蔚藍色的,像最深的湖水。不過,跟其他的公主一樣,她沒有腿:她身體的下部是一條魚尾。
  她們可以把整個漫長的日子花費在皇宮里,在墻上生有鮮花的大廳里。那些琥珀鑲的大窗子是開著的,魚兒向著她們游來,正如我們打開窗子的時候,燕子會飛進來一樣。不過魚兒一直游向這些小小的公主,在她們的手里找東西吃,讓她們來撫摸自己。
  宮殿外面有一個很大的花園,里邊生長著許多火紅和深藍色的樹木;樹上的果子亮得像黃金,花朵開得像焚燒著的火,花枝和葉子在不停地搖動。地上全是最細的砂子,但是藍得像硫黃發出的光焰。在那兒,處處都閃著一種奇異的、藍色的光彩。你很容易以為你是高高地在空中而不是在海底,你的頭上和腳下全是一片藍天。當海是非常沉靜的時候,你可瞥見太陽:它像一朵紫色的花,從它的花萼里射出各種色彩的光。
  在花園里,每一位小公主有自己的一小塊地方,在那上面她可以隨意栽種。有的把自己的花壇布置得像一條鯨魚,有的覺得最好把自己的花壇布置得像一個小人魚?墒亲钅暧椎哪俏粎s把自己的花壇布置得圓圓的,像一輪太陽,同時她也只種像太陽一樣紅的花朵。她是一個古怪的孩子,不大愛講話,總是靜靜地在想什么東西。當別的姊妹們用她們從沉船里所獲得的最奇異的東西來裝飾她們的花園的時候,她除了像高空的太陽一樣艷紅的花朵以外,只愿意有一個美麗的大理石像。這石像代表一個美麗的男子,它是用一塊潔白的石頭雕出來的,跟一條遭難的船一同沉到海底。她在這石像旁邊種了一株像玫瑰花那樣紅的垂柳。這樹長得非常茂盛。它新鮮的枝葉垂向這個石像、一直垂到那藍色的砂底。它的倒影帶有一種紫藍的色調。像它的枝條一樣,這影子也從不靜止,樹根和樹頂看起來好像在做著互相親吻的游戲。
  她最大的愉快是聽些關于上面人類的世界的故事。她的老祖母不得不把自己所有一切關于船只和城市、人類和動物的知識講給她聽。特別使她感到美好的一件事情是:地上的花兒能散發出香氣來,而海底上的花兒卻不能;地上的森林是綠色的,而且人們所看到的在樹枝間游來游去的魚兒會唱得那么清脆和好聽,叫人感到愉快。老祖母所說的“魚兒”事實上就是小鳥,但是假如她不這樣講的話,小公主就聽不懂她的故事了,因為她還從來沒有看到過一只小鳥。
  “等你滿了十五歲的時候,”老祖母說,“我就準許你浮到海面上去。那時你可以坐在月光底下的石頭上面,看巨大的船只在你身邊駛過去。你也可以看到樹林和城市!
  在這快要到來的一年,這些姊妹中有一位到了十五歲;可是其余的呢——晤,她們一個比一個小一歲。因此最年幼的那位公主還要足足地等五個年頭才能夠從海底浮上來,來看看我們的這個世界。不過每一位答應下一位說,她要把她第一天所看到和發現的東西講給大家聽,因為她們的祖母所講的確是不太夠——她們所希望了解的東西真不知有多少!
  她們誰也沒有像年幼的那位妹妹渴望得厲害,而她恰恰要等待得最久,同時她是那么地沉默和富于深思。不知有多少夜晚她站在開著的窗子旁邊,透過深藍色的水朝上面凝望,凝望著魚兒揮動著它們的尾巴和翅。她還看到月亮和星星——當然,它們射出的光有些發淡,但是透過一層水,它們看起來要比在我們人眼中大得多。假如有一塊類似黑云的東西在它們下面浮過去的話,她便知道這不是一條鯨魚在她上面游過去,便是一條裝載著許多旅客的船在開行?墒沁@些旅客們再也想像不到,他們下面有一位美麗的小人魚,在朝著他們船的龍骨伸出她一雙潔白的手。
  現在最大的那位公主已經到了十五歲,可以升到水面上去了。
  當她回來的時候,她有無數的事情要講:不過她說,最美的事情是當海上風平浪靜的時候,在月光底下躺在一個沙灘上面,緊貼著海岸凝望那大城市里亮得像無數星星似的燈光,靜聽音樂、鬧聲、以及馬車和人的聲音,觀看教堂的圓塔和尖塔,傾聽叮當的鐘聲。正因為她不能到那兒去,所以她也就最渴望這些東西。
  啊,最小的那位妹妹聽得多么入神!當她晚間站在開著的窗子旁邊、透過深藍色的水朝上面望的時候,她就想起了那個大城市以及它里面熙熙攘攘的聲音。于是她似乎能聽到教堂的鐘聲在向她這里飄來。
  第二年第二個姐姐得到許可,可以浮出水面,可以隨便向什么地方游去。她跳出水面的時候,太陽剛剛下落;她覺得這景象真是美極了。她說,這時整個的天空看起來像一塊黃金,而云塊呢——唔,她真沒有辦法把它們的美形容出來!它們在她頭上掠過,一忽兒紅,一忽兒紫。不過,比它們飛得還要快的、像一片又自又長的面紗,是一群掠過水面的野天鵝。它們是飛向太陽,她也向太陽游去?墒翘柭淞。一片玫瑰色的晚霞,慢慢地在海面和云塊之間消逝了。
  又過了一年,第三個姐姐浮上去了。她是她們中最大膽的一位,因此她游向一條流進海里的大河里去了。她看到一些美麗的青山,上面種滿了一行一行的葡萄。宮殿和田莊在郁茂的樹林中隱隱地露在外面;她聽到各種鳥兒唱得多么美好,太陽照得多么暖和,她有時不得不沉入水里,好使得她灼熱的面孔能夠得到一點清涼。在一個小河灣里她碰到一群人間的小孩子;他們光著身子,在水里游來游去。她倒很想跟他們玩一會兒,可是他們嚇了一跳,逃走了。于是一個小小的黑色動物走了過來——這是一條小狗,是她從來沒有看到過的小狗。它對她汪汪地叫得那么兇狠,弄得她害怕起來,趕快逃到大海里去?墒撬肋h忘記不了那壯麗的森林,那綠色的山,那些能夠在水里游泳的可愛的小寶寶——雖然他們沒有像魚那樣的尾巴。
  第四個姐姐可不是那么大膽了。她停留在荒涼的大海上面。她說,最美的事兒就是停在海上:因為你可以從這兒向四周很遠很遠的地方望去,同時天空懸在上面像一個巨大的玻璃鐘。她看到過船只,不過這些船只離她很遠,看起來像一只海鷗。她看到過快樂的海豚翻著筋斗,龐大的鯨魚從鼻孔里噴出水來,好像有無數的噴泉在圍繞著它們一樣。
  現在臨到那第五個姐姐了。她的生日恰恰是在冬天,所以她能看到其他的姐姐們在第一次浮出海面時所沒有看到過的東西。海染上了一片綠色,巨大的冰山在四周移動。她說每一座冰山看起來像一顆珠子,然而卻比人類所建造的教堂塔還要大得多。它們以種種奇奇怪怪的形狀出現;它們像鉆石似的射出光彩。她曾經在一個最大的冰山上坐過,讓海風吹著她細長的頭發,所有的船只,繞過她坐著的那塊地方,驚惶地遠遠避開。不過在黃昏的時分,天上忽然布起了一片烏云。電閃起來了,雷轟起未了。黑色的巨浪掀起整片整片的冰塊,使它們在血紅的雷電中閃著光。所有的船只都收下了帆,造成一種驚惶和恐怖的氣氛,但是她卻安靜地坐在那浮動的冰山上,望著藍色的網電,彎彎曲曲地射進反光的海里。
  這些姊妹們中隨便哪一位,只要是第一次升到海面上去,總是非常高興地觀看這些新鮮和美麗的東西?墒乾F在呢,她們已經是大女孩子了,可以隨便浮近她們喜歡去的地方,因此這些東西就不再太引起她們的興趣了。她們渴望回到家里來。一個來月以后,她們就說:究竟還是住在海里好——家里是多么舒服!
  在黃昏的時候,這五個姊妹常常手挽著手地浮上來,在水面上排成一行。她們能唱出好聽的歌聲——比任何人類的聲音還要美麗。當風暴快要到來、她們認為有些船只快要出事的時候,她們就浮到這些船的面前,唱起非常美麗的歌來,說是海底下是多么可愛,同時告訴這些水手不要害怕沉到海底;然而這些人卻聽不懂她們的歌詞。他們以為這是巨風的聲息。他們也想不到他們會在海底看到什么美好的東西,因為如果船沉了的話,上面的人也就淹死了,他們只有作為死人才能到達海王的官殿。
  有一天晚上,當姊妹們這么手挽著手地浮出海面的時候,最小的那位妹妹單獨地呆在后面,瞧著她們?礃幼铀孟袷窍胍抟粓鏊频,不過人魚是沒有眼淚的,因此她更感到難受。
  “啊,我多么希望我已經有十五歲!”她說!拔抑牢覍矚g上面的世界,喜歡住在那個世界里的人們的!
  最后她真的到了十五歲了。
  “你知道,你現在可以離開我們的手了,”她的祖母老皇太后說!皝戆,讓我把你打扮得像你的那些姐姐一樣吧!
  于是她在這小姑娘的頭發上戴上一個百合花編的花環,不過這花的每一個花瓣是半顆珍珠。老太太又叫八個大牡蠣緊緊地附貼在公主的尾上,來表示她高貴的地位。
  “這叫我真難受!”小人魚說。
  “當然咯,為了漂亮,一個人是應該吃點苦頭的,”老祖母說。
  哎,她倒真想能擺脫這些裝飾品,把這沉重的花環扔向一邊!她花園里的那些紅花,她戴起來要適合得多,但是她不敢這樣辦!霸贂!”她說。于是她輕盈和明朗得像一個水泡,冒出水面了。
  當她把頭伸出海面的時候,太陽已經下落了,可是所有的云塊還是像玫瑰花和黃金似地發著光;同時,在這淡紅的天上,大白星已經在美麗地、光亮地眨著眼睛?諝馐菧睾偷、新鮮的。海是非常平靜,這兒停著一艘有三根桅桿的大船。船上只掛了一張帆,因為沒有一絲兒風吹動。水手們正坐在護桅索的周圍和帆桁的上面。
  這兒有音樂,也有歌聲。當黃昏逐漸變得陰暗的時候,各色各樣的燈籠就一起亮起來了。它們看起來就好像飄在空中的世界各國的旗幟。小人魚一直向船窗那兒游去。每次當海浪把她托起來的時候,她可以透過像鏡子一樣的窗玻璃,望見里面站著許多服裝華麗的男子;但他們之中最美的一位是那有一對大黑眼珠的王子:無疑地,他的年紀還不到十六歲。今天是他的生日,正因為這個緣故,今天才這樣熱鬧。
  水手們在甲板上跳著舞。當王子走出來的時候,有一百多發火箭一齊向天空射出。天空被照得如同自晝,因此小人魚非常驚恐起來,趕快沉到水底?墒遣灰粫䞍核陌杨^伸出來了——這時她覺得好像滿天的星星都在向她落下,她從來沒有看到過這樣的焰火。許多巨大的太陽在周圍發出噓噓的響聲,光耀奪目的大魚在向藍色的空中飛躍。這一切都映到這清明的、平靜的海上。這船全身都被照得那么亮,連每根很小的繩子都可以看得出來,船上的人當然更可以看得清楚了。啊,這位年輕的王子是多么美麗!當音樂在這光華燦爛的夜里慢慢消逝的時候,他跟水手們握著手,大笑,微笑……
  夜已經很晚了,但是小人魚沒有辦法把她的眼睛從這艘船和這位美麗的王子撇開。那些彩色的燈籠熄了,火箭不再向空中發射了,炮聲也停止了?墒窃诤5纳钐幤鹆艘环N嗡嗡和隆隆的聲音。她坐在水上,一起一伏地漂著,所以她能看到船艙里的東西?墒谴涌炝怂俣龋核姆枷群髲埰饋砹。浪濤大起來了,沉重的烏云浮起來了,遠處掣起閃電來了。啊,可怕的大風暴快要到來了!水手們因此都收下了帆。這條巨大的船在這狂暴的海上搖搖擺擺地向前急駛。浪濤像龐大的黑山似地高漲。它想要折斷桅桿?墒沁@船像天鵝似的,一忽兒投進洪濤里面,一忽兒又在高大的浪頭上抬起頭來。
  小人魚覺得這是一種很有趣的航行,可是水手們的看法卻不是這樣。這艘船現在發出碎裂的聲音;它粗厚的板壁被襲來的海濤打彎了。船桅像蘆葦似的在半中腰折斷了。后來船開始傾斜,水向艙里沖了進來。這時小人魚才知道他們遭遇到了危險。她也得當心漂流在水上的船梁和船的殘骸。
  天空馬上變得漆黑,她什么也看不見。不過當閃電掣起來的時候,天空又顯得非常明亮,使她可以看出船上的每一個人,F在每個人在盡量為自己尋找生路。她特別注意那位王子。當這艘船裂開、向海的深處下沉的時候,她看到了他。她馬上變得非常高興起來,因為他現在要落到她這兒來了?墒撬钟浧鹑祟愂遣荒苌钤谒锏,他除非成了死人,是不能進入她父親的官殿的。
  不成,決不能讓他死去!所以她在那些漂著的船梁和木板之間游過去,一點也沒有想到它們可能把她砸死。她深深地沉入水里,接著又在浪濤中高高地浮出來,最后她終于到達了那王子的身邊,在這狂暴的海里,他決沒有力量再浮起來。他的手臂和腿開始支持不住了。他美麗的眼睛已經閉起來了。要不是小人魚及時趕來,他一定是會淹死的。她把他的頭托出水面,讓浪濤載著她跟他一起隨便漂流到什么地方去。
  天明時分,風暴已經過去了。那條船連一塊碎片也沒有。鮮紅的太陽升起來了,在水上光耀地照著。它似乎在這位王子的臉上注入了生命。不過他的眼睛仍然是閉著的。小人魚把他清秀的高額吻了一下,把他透濕的長發理向腦后。她覺得他的樣子很像她在海底小花園里的那尊大理石像。她又吻了他一下,希望他能蘇醒過來。
  現在她看見她前面展開一片陸地和一群蔚藍色的高山,山頂上閃耀著的白雪看起來像睡著的天鵝。沿著海岸是一片美麗的綠色樹林,林子前面有一個教堂或是修道院——她不知道究竟叫做什么,反正總是一個建筑物罷了。它的花園里長著一些檸檬和橘子樹,門前立著很高的棕櫚。海在這兒形成一個小灣。水是非常平靜的,但是從這兒一直到那積有許多細砂的石崖附近,都是很深的。她托著這位美麗的王子向那兒游去。她把他放到沙上,非常仔細地使他的頭高高地擱在溫暖的太陽光里。
  鐘聲從那幢雄偉的白色建筑物中響起來了,有許多年輕女子穿過花園走出來。小人魚遠遠地向海里游去,游到冒在海面上的幾座大石頭的后面。她用許多海水的泡沫蓋住了她的頭發和胸脯,好使得誰也看不見她小小的面孔。她在這兒凝望著,看有誰會來到這個可憐的王子身邊。
  不一會兒,一個年輕的女子走過來了。她似乎非常吃驚,不過時間不久,于是她找了許多人來。小人魚看到王子漸漸地蘇醒過來了,并且向周圍的人發出微笑?墒撬麤]有對她作出微笑的表情:當然,他一點也不知道救他的人就是她。她感到非常難過。因此當他被抬進那幢高大的房子里去的時候,她悲傷地跳進海里,回到她父親的宮殿里去。
  她一直就是一個沉靜和深思的孩子,現在她變得更是這樣了。她的姐姐們都問她,她第一次升到海面上去究竟看到了一些什么東西,但是她什么也說不出來。
  有好多晚上和早晨,她浮出水面,向她曾經放下王子的那塊地方游去。她看到那花園里的果子熟了,被摘下來了;她看到高山頂上的雪融化了;但是她看不見那個王子。所以她每次回到家來,總是更感到痛苦。她的唯一的安慰是坐在她的小花園里,用雙手抱著與那位王子相似的美麗的大理石像?墒撬僖膊徽樟纤幕▋毫。這些花兒好像是生長在曠野中的東西,鋪得滿地都是:它們的長梗和葉子跟樹枝交叉在一起,使這地方顯得非常陰暗。
  最后她再也忍受不住了。不過只要她把她的心事告訴給一個姐姐,馬上其余的人也就都知道了。但是除了她們和別的一兩個人魚以外(她們只把這秘密轉告給自己幾個知己的朋友),別的什么人也不知道。她們之中有一位知道那個王子是什么人。她也看到過那次在船上舉行的慶祝。她知道這位王子是從什么地方來的,他的王國在什么地方。
  “來吧,小妹妹!”別的公主們說。她們彼此把手搭在肩上,一長排地升到海面,一直游到一塊她們認為是王子的宮殿的地方。
  這宮殿是用一種發光的淡黃色石塊建筑的,里面有許多寬大的大理石臺階——有一個臺階還一直伸到海里呢。華麗的、金色的圓塔從屋頂上伸向空中。在圍繞著這整個建筑物的圓柱中間,立著許多大理石像。它們看起來像是活人一樣。透過那些高大窗子的明亮玻璃,人們可以看到一些富麗堂皇的大廳,里面懸著貴重的絲窗簾和織錦,墻上裝飾著大幅的圖畫——就是光看看這些東西也是一樁非常愉快的事情。在最大的一個廳堂中央,有一個巨大的噴泉在噴著水。水絲一直向上面的玻璃圓屋頂射去,而太陽又透過這玻璃射下來,照到水上,照到生長在這大水池里的植物上面。
  現在她知道王子住在什么地方。在這兒的水上她度過好幾個黃昏和黑夜。她遠遠地向陸地游去,比任何別的姐姐敢去的地方還遠。的確,她甚至游到那個狹小的河流里去,直到那個壯麗的大理石陽臺下面——它長長的陰影倒映在水上。她在這兒坐著,瞧著那個年輕的王子,而這位王子卻還以為月光中只有他一個人呢。
  有好幾個晚上,她看到他在音樂聲中乘著那艘飄著許多旗幟的華麗的船。她從綠燈芯草中向上面偷望。當風吹起她銀白色的長面罩的時候,如果有人看到的話,他們總以為這是一只天鵝在展開它的翅膀。
  有好幾個夜里,當漁夫們打著火把出海捕魚的時候,她聽到他們對于這位王子說了許多稱贊的話語。她高興起來,覺得當浪濤把他沖擊得半死的時候,是她來救了他的生命;她記起他的頭是怎樣緊緊地躺在她的懷里,她是多么熱情地吻著他?墒沁@些事兒他自己一點也不知道,他連做夢也不會想到她。
  她漸漸地開始愛起人類來,漸漸地開始盼望能夠生活在他們中間。她覺得他們的世界比她的天地大得多。的確,他們能夠乘船在海上行駛,能夠爬上高聳入云的大山,同時他們的土地,連帶著森林和田野,伸展開來,使得她望都望不盡。她希望知道的東西真是不少,可是她的姐姐們都不能回答她所有的問題。因此她只有問她的老祖母。她對于“上層世界”——這是她給海上國家所起的恰當的名字——的確知道得相當清楚。
  “如果人類不淹死的話,”小人魚問,“他們會永遠活下去么?他們會不會像我們住在海里的人們一樣地死去呢?”
  “一點也不錯,”老太太說,“他們也會死的,而且他們的生命甚至比我們的還要短促呢。我們可以活到三百歲,不過當我們在這兒的生命結束的時候,我們就變成了水上的泡沫。我們甚至連一座墳墓也不留給我們這兒心愛的人呢。我們沒有一個不滅的靈魂。我們從來得不到一個死后的生命。我們像那綠色的海草一樣,只要一割斷了,就再也綠不起來!相反地,人類有一個靈魂;它永遠活著,即使身體化為塵土,它仍是活著的。它升向晴朗的天空,一直升向那些閃耀著的星星!正如我們升到水面、看到人間的世界一樣,他們升向那些神秘的、華麗的、我們永遠不會看見的地方!
  “為什么我們得不到一個不滅的靈魂呢?”小人魚悲哀地問!爸灰夷軌蜃兂扇、可以進入天上的世界,哪怕在那兒只活一天,我都愿意放棄我在這兒所能活的幾百歲的生命,”
  “你決不能起這種想頭,”老太太說!氨绕鹕厦娴娜祟悂,我們在這兒的生活要幸福和美好得多!”
  “那么我就只有死去,變成泡沫在水上漂浮了。我將再也聽不見浪濤的音樂,看不見美麗的花朵和鮮紅的太陽嗎?難道我沒有辦法得到一個永恒的靈魂嗎?”
  “沒有!”老太太說!爸挥挟斠粋人愛你、把你當做比他父母還要親切的人的時候:只有當他把他全部的思想和愛情都放在你身上的時候;只有當他讓牧師把他的右手放在你的手里、答應現在和將來永遠對你忠誠的時候,他的靈魂才會轉移到你的身上去,而你就會得到一份人類的快樂。他就會分給你一個靈魂,而同時他自己的靈魂又能保持不滅。但是這類的事情是從來不會有的!我們在這兒海底所認為美麗的東西——你的那條魚尾——他們在陸地上卻認為非常難看:他們不知道什么叫做美丑。在他們那兒,一個人想要顯得漂亮,必須生有兩根呆笨的支柱——他們把它們叫做腿!”
  小人魚嘆了一口氣,悲哀地把自己的魚尾巴望了一眼。
  “我們放快樂些吧!”老太太說!霸谖覀兡芑钪倪@三百年中,讓我們跳和舞吧。這究竟是一段相當長的時間,以后我們也可以在我們的墳墓里①愉快地休息了。今晚我們就在宮里開一個舞會吧!”
  那真是一個壯麗的場面,人們在陸地上是從來不會看見的。這個寬廣的跳舞廳里的墻壁和天花板是用厚而透明的玻璃砌成的。成千成百草綠色和粉紅色的巨型貝殼一排一排地立在四邊;它們里面燃著藍色的火焰,照亮整個的舞廳,照透了墻壁,因而也照明了外面的海。人們可以看到無數的大小魚群向這座水晶官里游來,有的鱗上發著紫色的光,有的亮起來像白銀和金子。一股寬大的激流穿過舞廳的中央,海里的男人和女人,唱著美麗的歌,就在這激流上跳舞,這樣優美的歌聲,住在陸地上的人們是唱不出來的。coc1①上回說人魚死后變成海上的泡沫,這兒卻說人魚死后在墳墓里休息。大概作者寫到這兒忘記了前面的話。coc2
  在這些人中間,小人魚唱得最美。大家為她鼓掌;她心中有好一會兒感到非?鞓,因為她知道,在陸地上和海里只有她的聲音最美。不過她馬上又想起上面的那個世界。她忘不了那個美貌的王子,也忘不了她因為沒有他那樣不滅的靈魂而引起的悲愁。因此她偷偷地走出她父親的宮殿:當里面正是充滿了歌聲和快樂的時候,她卻悲哀地坐在她的小花園里。忽然她聽到一個號角聲從水上傳來。她想:“他一定是在上面行船了:他——我愛他勝過我的爸爸和媽媽;他——我時時刻刻在想念他;我把我一生的幸福放在他的手里。我要犧牲一切來爭取他和一個不滅的靈魂。當現在我的姐姐們正在父親的官殿里跳舞的時候,我要去拜訪那位海的巫婆。我一直是非常害怕她的,但是她也許能教給我一些辦法和幫助我吧!
  小人魚于是走出了花園,向一個掀起泡沫的漩渦走去——巫婆就住在它的后面。她以前從來沒有走過這條路。這兒沒有花,也沒有海草,只有光溜溜的一片灰色沙底,向漩渦那兒伸去。水在這兒像一架喧鬧的水車似地漩轉著,把它所碰到的東西部轉到水底去。要到達巫婆所住的地區,她必須走過這急轉的漩渦。有好長一段路程需要通過一條冒著熱泡的泥地:巫婆把這地方叫做她的泥煤田。在這后面有一個可怕的森林,她的房子就在里面,所有的樹和灌木林全是些珊瑚蟲——一種半植物和半動物的東西。它們看起來很像地里冒出來的多頭蛇。它們的枝椏全是長長的、粘糊糊的手臂,它們的手指全是像蠕蟲一樣柔軟。它們從根到頂都是一節一節地在顫動。它們緊緊地盤住它們在海里所能抓得到的東西,一點也不放松。
  小人魚在這森林面前停下步子,非常驚慌。她的心害怕得跳起來,她幾乎想轉身回去。但是當她一想起那位王子和人的靈魂的時候,她就又有了勇氣。她把她飄動著的長頭發牢牢地纏在她的頭上,好使珊瑚蟲抓不住她。她把雙手緊緊地貼在胸前,于是她像水里跳著的魚兒似的,在這些丑惡的珊瑚蟲中間,向前跳走,而這些珊瑚蟲只有在她后面揮舞著它們柔軟的長臂和手指。她看到它們每一個都抓住了一件什么東西,無數的小手臂盤住它,像堅固的鐵環一樣。那些在海里淹死和沉到海底下的人們,在這些珊瑚蟲的手臂里,露出白色的骸骨。它們緊緊地抱著船舵和箱子,抱著陸上動物的骸骨,還抱著一個被它們抓住和勒死了的小人魚——這對于她說來,是一件最可怕的事情。
  現在她來到了森林中一塊粘糊糊的空地。這兒又大又肥的水蛇在翻動著,露出它們淡黃色的、奇丑的肚皮。在這塊地中央有一幢用死人的白骨砌成的房子。海的巫婆就正坐在這兒,用她的嘴喂一只癲蛤蟆,正如我們人用糖喂一只小金絲雀一樣。她把那些奇丑的、肥胖的水蛇叫做她的小雞,同時讓它們在她肥大的、松軟的胸口上爬來爬去。
  “我知道你是來求什么的,”海的巫婆說!澳闶且粋傻東西!不過,我美麗的公主,我還是會讓你達到你的目的,因為這件事將會給你一個悲慘的結局。你想要去掉你的魚尾,生出兩根支柱,好叫你像人類一樣能夠行路。你想要叫那個王子愛上你,使你能得到他,因而也得到一個不滅的靈魂!边@時巫婆便可憎地大笑了一通,癲蛤蟆和水蛇都滾到地上來,在周圍爬來爬去!澳銇淼谜菚r候,”巫婆說!懊魈焯柍鰜硪院,我就沒有辦法幫助你了,只有等待一年再說。我可以煎一服藥給你喝。你帶著這服藥,在太陽出來以前,趕快游向陸地。你就坐在海灘上,把這服藥吃掉,于是你的尾巴就可以分做兩半,收縮成為人類所謂的漂亮腿子了?墒沁@是很痛的——這就好像有一把尖刀砍進你的身體。凡是看到你的人,一定會說你是他們所見到的最美麗的孩子!你將仍舊會保持你像游泳似的步子,任何舞蹈家也不會跳得像你那樣輕柔。不過你的每一個步子將會使你覺得好像是在尖刀上行走,好像你的血在向外流。如果你能忍受得了這些苦痛的話,我就可以幫助你!
  “我可以忍受,”小人魚用顫抖的聲音說。這時她想起了那個王子和她要獲得一個不滅靈魂的志愿。
  “可是要記住,”巫婆說,“你一旦獲得了一個人的形體,你就再也不能變成人魚了,你就再也不能走下水來,回到你姐姐或你爸爸的官殿里來了。同時假如你得不到那個王子的愛情,假如你不能使他為你而忘記自己的父母、全心全意地愛你、叫牧師來把你們的手放在一起結成夫婦的話,你就不會得到一個不滅的靈魂了。在他跟別人結婚的頭一天早晨,你的心就會裂碎,你就會變成水上的泡沫,”
  “我不怕!”小人魚說。但她的臉像死一樣慘白。
  “但是你還得給我酬勞!”巫婆說,“而且我所要的也并不是一件微小的東西。在海底的人們中,你的聲音要算是最美麗的了。無疑地,你想用這聲音去迷住他,可是這個聲音你得交給我。我必須得到你最好的東西,作為我的貴重藥物的交換品!我得把我自己的血放進這藥里,好使它尖銳得像一柄兩面部快的刀子!”
  “不過,如果你把我的聲音拿去了,”小人魚說,“那么我還有什么東西剩下呢?”
  “你還有美麗的身材呀,”巫婆回答說,“你還有輕盈的步子和富于表情的眼睛呀。有了這些東西,你就很容易迷住一個男人的心了。唔,你已經失掉了勇氣嗎?伸出你小小的舌頭吧,我可以把它割下來作為報酬,你也可以得到這服強烈的藥劑了!
  “就這樣辦吧!毙∪唆~說。巫婆于是就把藥罐準備好,來煎這服富有魔力的藥了。
  “清潔是一件好事,”她說;于是她用幾條蛇打成一個結,用它來洗擦這罐子。然后她把自己的胸口抓破,讓她的黑血滴到罐子里去。藥的蒸氣奇形怪狀地升到空中,看起來是怪怕人的。每隔一會兒巫婆就加一點什么新的東西到藥罐里去。當藥煮到滾開的時候,有一個像鱷魚的哭聲飄出來了。最后藥算是煎好了。它的樣子像非常清亮的水。
  “拿去吧!”巫婆說。于是她就把小人魚的舌頭割掉了。小人魚現在成了一個啞巴,既不能唱歌,也不能說話。
  “當你穿過我的森林回去的時候,如果珊瑚蟲捉住了你的話,”巫婆說,“你只須把這藥水灑一滴到它們的身上,它們的手臂和指頭就會裂成碎片,向四邊紛飛了!笨墒切∪唆~沒有這樣做的必要,固為當珊瑚蟲一看到這亮晶晶的藥水——它在她的手里亮得像一顆閃耀的星星——的時候,它們就在她面前惶恐地縮回去了。這樣,她很快地就走過了森林、沼澤和激轉的漩渦。
  她可以看到她父親的官殿了。那寬大的跳舞廳里的火把已經滅了,無疑地,里面的人已經入睡了。不過她不敢再去看他們,因為她現在已經是一個啞巴,而且就要永遠離開他們。她的心痛苦得似乎要裂成碎片。她偷偷地走進花園,從每個姐姐的花壇上摘下一朵花,對著皇官用手指飛了一千個吻,然后他就浮出這深藍色的海。
  當她看到那王子的宮殿的時候,太陽還沒有升起來。她莊嚴地走上那大理石臺階。月亮照得透明,非常美麗。小人魚喝下那服強烈的藥劑。她馬上覺到好像有一柄兩面都快的刀子劈開了她纖細的身體。她馬上昏了。倒下來好像死去一樣。當太陽照到海上的時候,她才醒過來,她感到一陣劇痛。這時有一位年輕貌美的王子正立在她的面前。他烏黑的眼珠正在望著她,弄得她不好意思地低下頭來。這時她發現她的魚尾已經沒有了,而獲得一雙只有少女才有的、最美麗的小小白腿?墒撬龥]有穿衣服,所以她用她濃密的長頭發來掩住自己的身體。王子問她是誰,怎樣到這兒來的。她用她深藍色的眼睛溫柔而又悲哀地望著他,因為她現在已經不會講話了。他挽著她的手,把她領進宮殿里去。正如那巫婆以前跟她講過的一樣,她覺得每一步都好像是在錐子和利刀上行走?墒撬樵溉淌苓@苦痛。她挽著王子的手臂,走起路來輕盈得像一個水泡。他和所有的人望著她這文雅輕盈的步子,感到驚奇。
  現在她穿上了絲綢和細紗做的貴重衣服。她是宮里一個最美麗的人,然而她是一個啞巴,既不能唱歌。也不能講話。漂亮的女奴隸,穿著絲綢,戴著金銀飾物,走上前來,為王子和他的父母唱著歌。有一個奴隸唱得最迷人,王子不禁鼓起掌來,對她發出微笑。這時小人魚就感到一陣悲哀。她知道,有個時候她的歌聲比那種歌聲要美得多!她想:
  “!只愿他知道,為了要和他在一起,我永遠犧牲了我的聲音!”
  現在奴隸們跟著美妙的音樂,跳起優雅的、輕飄飄的舞來。這時小人魚就舉起她一雙美麗的、白嫩的手,用腳尖站著,在地板上輕盈地跳著舞——從來還沒有人這樣舞過。她的每一個動作都襯托出她的美。她的眼珠比奴隸們的歌聲更能打動人的心坎。
  大家都看得入了迷,特別是那位王于——他把她叫做他的“孤兒”。她不停地舞著,雖然每次當她的腳接觸到地面的時候,她就像是在快利的刀上行走一樣。王子說,她此后應該永遠跟他在一起;因此她就得到了許可睡在他門外的一個天鵝絨的墊子上面。
  他叫人為她做了一套男子穿的衣服,好使她可以陪他騎著馬同行。他們走過香氣撲鼻的樹林,綠色的樹枝掃過他們的肩膀,鳥兒在新鮮的葉子后面唱著歌。她和王子爬上高山。雖然她纖細的腳已經流出血來,而且也叫大家都看見了,她仍然只是大笑,繼續伴隨著他,一直到他們看到云塊在下面移動、像一群向遙遠國家飛去的小鳥為止。
  在王子的宮殿里,夜里大家都睡了以后,她就向那寬大的臺階走去。為了使她那雙發燒的腳可以感到一點清涼,她就站進寒冷的海水里。這時她不禁想起了住在海底的人們。
  有一天夜里,她的姐姐們手挽著手浮過來了。她們一面在水上游泳,一面唱出凄愴的歌。這時她就向她們招手。她們認出了她;她們說她曾經多么叫她們難過。這次以后,她們每天晚上都來看她。有一晚,她遙遠地看到了多年不曾浮出海面的老祖母和戴著王冠的海王。他們對她伸出手來,但他們不像她的那些姐姐,沒有敢游近地面。
  王子一無比一天更愛她。他像愛一個親熱的好孩子那樣愛她,但是他從來沒有娶她為皇后的思想。然而她必須做他的妻子,否則她就不能得到一個不滅的靈魂,而且會在他結婚的頭一個早上就變成海上的泡沫。
  “在所有的人中,你是最愛我的嗎?”當他把她抱進懷里吻她前額的時候,小人魚的眼睛似乎在這樣說。
  “是的,你是我最親愛的人!”王子說,“因為你在一切人中有一顆最善良的心。你對我是最親愛的,你很像我某次看到過的一個年輕女子,可是我永遠再也看不見她了。那時我是坐在一艘船上——這船已經沉了。巨浪把我推到一個神廟旁的岸上。有幾個年輕女子在那兒作祈禱。她們最年輕的一位在岸旁發現了我,因此救了我的生命。我只看到過她兩次:她是我在這世界上能夠愛的唯一的人,但是你很像她,你幾乎代替了她留在我的靈魂中的印象。她是屬于這個神廟的,因此我的幸運特別把你送給我。讓我們永遠不要分離吧!”
  “啊,他卻不知道我救了他的生命!”小人魚想!拔野阉麖暮@锿谐鰜,送到神廟所在的一個樹林里。我坐在泡沫后面,窺望是不是有人會來。我看到那個美麗的姑娘——他愛她勝過于愛我!边@時小人魚深深地嘆了一口氣——她哭不出聲來!澳莻姑娘是屬于那個神廟的——他曾說過。她永不會走向這個人間的世界里來——他們永不會見面了。我是跟他在一起,每天看到他的。我要照看他,熱愛他,對他獻出我的生命!”
  現在大家在傳說王子快要結婚了,她的妻子就是鄰國國王的一個女兒。他為這事特別裝備好了一艘美麗的船。王子在表面上說是要到鄰近王國里去觀光,事實上他是為了要去看鄰國君主的女兒。他將帶著一大批隨員同去。小人魚搖了搖頭,微笑了一下。她比任何人都能猜透王子的心事。
  “我得去旅行一下!”他對她說過,“我得去看一位美麗的公主,這是我父母的命令,但是他們不能強迫我把她作為未婚妻帶回家來!我不會愛她的。你很像神廟里的那個美麗的姑娘,而她卻不像。如果我要選擇新嫁娘的話,那未我就要先選你——我親愛的、有一雙能講話的眼睛的啞巴孤女!
  于是他吻了她鮮紅的嘴唇,摸撫著她的長頭發、把他的頭貼到她的心上,弄得她的這顆心又夢想起人間的幸福和一個不滅的靈魂來。
  “你不害怕海嗎,我的啞巴孤兒?”他問。這時他們正站在那艘華麗的船上,它正向鄰近的王國開去。他和她談論著風暴和平靜的海,生活在海里的奇奇怪怪的魚,和潛水夫在海底所能看到的東西。對于這類的故事,她只是微微地一笑,因為關于海底的事兒她比誰都知道得清楚。
  在月光照著的夜里,大家都睡了,只有掌舵人立在舵旁。這時她就坐在船邊上,凝望著下面清亮的海水,她似乎看到了她父親的王宮。她的老祖母頭上戴著銀子做的皇冠,正高高地站在王宮頂上;她透過激流朝這條船的龍骨了望。不一會,他的姐姐們都浮到水面上來了,她們悲哀地望著她,苦痛地扭著她們白凈的手。她向她們招手,微笑,同時很想告訴她們,說她現在一切都很美好和幸福。不過這時船上的一個侍者忽然向她這邊走來。她的姐姐們馬上就沉到水里,侍者以為自己所看到的那些白色的東西,不過只是些海上的泡沫。
  第二天早晨,船開進鄰國壯麗皇城的港口。所有教堂的鐘都響起來了,號笛從許多高樓上吹來,兵士們拿著飄揚的旗子和明晃的刺刀在敬禮。每天都有一個宴會。舞會和晚會在輪流舉行著,可是公主還沒有出現。人們說她在一個遙遠的神廟里受教育,學習皇家的一切美德。最后她終于到來了。
  小人魚迫切地想要看看她的美貌。她不得不承認她的美了,她從來沒有看見過比這更美的形體。她的皮膚是那么細嫩,潔白;在她黑長的睫毛后面是一對微笑的、忠誠的、深藍色的眼珠。
  “就是你!”王子說,“當我像一具死尸躺在岸上的時候,救活我的就是你!”于是他把這位羞答答的新嫁娘緊緊地抱在自己的懷里!鞍,我太幸福了!”他對小人魚說,“我從來不敢希望的最好的東西,現在終于成為事實了。你會為我的幸福而高興吧,因為你是一切人中最喜歡我的人!”
  小人魚把他的手吻了一下。她覺得她的心在碎裂。他舉行婚禮后的頭一個早晨就會帶給她滅亡,就會使她變成海上的泡沫。
  教堂的鐘都響起來了,傳令人騎著馬在街上宣布訂婚的喜訊。每一個祭臺上,芬芳的油脂在貴重的油燈里燃燒。祭司們揮著香爐,新郎和新娘互相挽著手來接受主教的祝福。小人魚這時穿著絲綢,戴著金飾,托著新嫁娘的披紗,可是她的耳朵聽不見這歡樂的音樂,她的眼睛看不見這神圣的儀式。她想起了她要滅亡的早晨,和她在這世界已經失去了的一切東西。
  在同一天晚上,新郎和新娘來到船上。禮炮響起來了,旗幟在飄揚著。一個金色和紫色的皇家帳篷在船中央架起來了,里面陳設得有最美麗的墊子。在這兒,這對美麗的新婚夫婦將度過他們這清涼和寂靜的夜晚。
  風兒在鼓著船帆。船在這清亮的海上,輕柔地航行著,沒有很大的波動。
  當暮色漸漸垂下來的時候,彩色的燈光就亮起來了,水手們愉快地在甲板上跳起舞來。小人魚不禁想起她第一次浮到海面上來的情景,想起她那時看到的同樣華麗和歡樂的場面。她于是旋舞起來,飛翔著,正如一只被追逐的燕子在飛翔著一樣。大家都在喝采,稱贊她,她從來沒有跳得這么美麗?炖牡蹲铀坪踉诳持募毮鄣哪_,但是她并不感覺到痛,因為她的心比這還要痛。
  她知道這是她看到他的最后一晚——為了他,她離開了她的族人和家庭,她交出了她美麗的聲音,她每天忍受著沒有止境的苦痛,然而他卻一點兒也不知道。這是她能和他在一起呼吸同樣空氣的最后一晚,這是她能看到深沉的海和布滿了星星的天空的最后一晚。同時一個沒有思想和夢境的永恒的夜在等待著她——沒有靈魂、而且也得不到一個靈魂的她。一直到半夜過后,船上的一切還是歡樂和愉快的。她笑著,舞著,但是她心中懷著死的思想。王子吻著自己的美麗的新娘:新娘撫弄著他的烏亮的頭發。他們手攙著手到那華麗的帳篷里去休息。
  船上現在是很安靜的了。只有舵手站在舵旁。小人魚把她潔白的手臂倚在舷墻上,向東方凝望,等待著晨曦的出現——她知道,頭一道太陽光就會叫她滅亡,她看到她的姐姐們從波濤中涌現出來了。她們是像她自己一樣地蒼白。她們美麗的長頭發已經不在風中飄蕩了——因為它已經被剪掉了。
  “我們已經把頭發交給了那個巫婆,希望她能幫助你,使你今后不至于滅亡。她給了我們一把刀子。拿去吧,你看,它是多么快!在太陽沒有出來以前,你得把它插進那個王子的心里去。當他的熱血流到你腳上上時,你的雙腳將會又聯到一起,成為一條魚尾,那么你就可以恢復人魚的原形,你就可以回到我們這兒的水里來;這樣,在你沒有變成無生命的咸水泡沫以前,你仍舊可以活過你三百年的歲月?靹邮!在太陽沒有出來以前,不是他死,就是你死了!我們的老祖母悲慟得連她的白發都落光了,正如我們的頭發在巫婆的剪刀下落掉一樣。刺死那個王子,趕快回來吧!快動手呀!你沒有看到天上的紅光嗎,幾分鐘以后,太陽就出來了,那時你就必然滅亡!”
  她們發出一個奇怪的、深沉的嘆息聲,于是她們便沉入浪禱里去了。
  小人魚把那帳篷上紫色的簾子掀開,看到那位美麗的新娘把頭枕在王子的懷里睡著了。她彎下腰,在王子清秀的眉毛上親了一吻,于是他向天空凝視——朝霞漸漸地變得更亮了。她向尖刀看了一跟,接著又把眼睛掉向這個王子;他正在夢中喃喃地念著他的新嫁娘的名字。他思想中只有她存在。刀子在小人魚的手里發抖。但是正在這時候,她把這刀子遠遠地向浪花里扔去。萬子沉下的地方,浪花就發出一道紅光,好像有許多血滴濺出了水面。她再一次把她迷糊的視線投向這王子,然后她就從船上跳到海里,她覺得她的身軀在融化成為泡沫。
  現在太陽從海里升起來了。陽光柔和地、溫暖地照在冰冷的泡沫上。因為小人魚并沒有感到滅亡。她看到光明的太陽,同時在她上面飛著無數透明的、美麗的生物。透過它們,她可以看到船上的白帆和天空的彩云。它們的聲音是和諧的音樂?墒悄敲刺摕o縹緲,人類的耳朵簡直沒有辦法聽見,正如地上的眼睛不能看見它們一樣。它們沒有翅膀,只是憑它們輕飄的形體在空中浮動。小人魚覺得自己也獲得了它們這樣的形體,漸漸地從泡沫中升起來。
  “我將向誰走去呢?”她問。她的聲音跟這些其他的生物一樣,顯得虛無縹緲,人世間的任何音樂部不能和它相比。
  “到天空的女兒那兒去呀!”別的聲音回答說!叭唆~是沒有不滅的靈魂的,而且永遠也不會有這樣的靈魂,除非她獲得了一個凡人的愛情。她的永恒的存在要依靠外來的力量。天空的女兒也沒有永恒的靈魂,不過她們可以通過善良的行為而創造出一個靈魂。我們飛向炎熱的國度里去,那兒散布著病疫的空氣在傷害著人民,我們可以吹起清涼的風,可以把花香在空氣中傳播,我們可以散布健康和愉快的精神。三百年以后,當我們盡力做完了我們可能做的一切善行以后,我們就可以獲得一個不滅的靈魂,就可以分享人類一切永恒的幸福了。你,可憐的個人魚,像我們一樣,曾經全心全意地為那個目標而奮斗。你忍受過痛苦;你堅持下去了;你已經超升到精靈的世界里來了。通過你的善良的工作,在三百年以后,你就可以為你自己創造出一個不滅的靈魂!
  小人魚向上帝的太陽舉起了她光亮的手臂,她第一次感到要流出眼淚。
  在那條船上,人聲和活動又開始了。她看到王子和他美麗的新娘在尋找她。他們悲悼地望著那翻騰的泡沫,好像他們知道她已經跳到浪濤里去了似的。在冥冥中她吻著這位新嫁娘的前額,她對王子微笑。于是她就跟其他的空氣中的孩子們一道,騎上玫瑰色的云塊,升人天空里去了。
  “這樣,三百年以后,我們就可以升入天國!”
  “我們也許還不須等那么久!”一個聲音低語著!拔覀儫o形無影地飛進人類的住屋里去,那里面生活著一些孩子。每一天如果我們找到一個好孩子,如果他給他父母帶來快樂、值得他父母愛他的話,上帝就可以縮短我們考驗的時間。當我們飛過屋子的時候,孩子是不會知道的。當我們幸福地對著他笑的時候,我們就可以在這三百年中減去一年;但當我們看到一個頑皮和惡劣的孩子、而不得不傷心地哭出來的時候,那未每一顆眼淚就使我們考驗的日子多加一天!

THE LITTLE MERMAID


FAR out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the
prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very,
very deep; so deep, indeed, that no cable could fathom it:
many church steeples, piled one upon another, would not reach
from the ground beneath to the surface of the water above.
There dwell the Sea King and his subjects. We must not imagine
that there is nothing at the bottom of the sea but bare yellow
sand. No, indeed; the most singular flowers and plants grow
there; the leaves and stems of which are so pliant, that the
slightest agitation of the water causes them to stir as if
they had life. Fishes, both large and small, glide between the
branches, as birds fly among the trees here upon land. In the
deepest spot of all, stands the castle of the Sea King. Its
walls are built of coral, and the long, gothic windows are of
the clearest amber. The roof is formed of shells, that open
and close as the water flows over them. Their appearance is
very beautiful, for in each lies a glittering pearl, which
would be fit for the diadem of a queen.

The Sea King had been a widower for many years, and his
aged mother kept house for him. She was a very wise woman, and
exceedingly proud of her high birth; on that account she wore
twelve oysters on her tail; while others, also of high rank,
were only allowed to wear six. She was, however, deserving of
very great praise, especially for her care of the little
sea-princesses, her grand-daughters. They were six beautiful
children; but the youngest was the prettiest of them all; her
skin was as clear and delicate as a rose-leaf, and her eyes as
blue as the deepest sea; but, like all the others, she had no
feet, and her body ended in a fish's tail. All day long they
played in the great halls of the castle, or among the living
flowers that grew out of the walls. The large amber windows
were open, and the fish swam in, just as the swallows fly into
our houses when we open the windows, excepting that the fishes
swam up to the princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed
themselves to be stroked. Outside the castle there was a
beautiful garden, in which grew bright red and dark blue
flowers, and blossoms like flames of fire; the fruit glittered
like gold, and the leaves and stems waved to and fro
continually. The earth itself was the finest sand, but blue as
the flame of burning sulphur. Over everything lay a peculiar
blue radiance, as if it were surrounded by the air from above,
through which the blue sky shone, instead of the dark depths
of the sea. In calm weather the sun could be seen, looking
like a purple flower, with the light streaming from the calyx.
Each of the young princesses had a little plot of ground in
the garden, where she might dig and plant as she pleased. One
arranged her flower-bed into the form of a whale; another
thought it better to make hers like the figure of a little
mermaid; but that of the youngest was round like the sun, and
contained flowers as red as his rays at sunset. She was a
strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters
would be delighted with the wonderful things which they
obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but
her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful
marble statue. It was the representation of a handsome boy,
carved out of pure white stone, which had fallen to the bottom
of the sea from a wreck. She planted by the statue a
rose-colored weeping willow. It grew splendidly, and very soon
hung its fresh branches over the statue, almost down to the
blue sands. The shadow had a violet tint, and waved to and fro
like the branches; it seemed as if the crown of the tree and
the root were at play, and trying to kiss each other. Nothing
gave her so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the
sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the
ships and of the towns, the people and the animals. To her it
seemed most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers
of the land should have fragrance, and not those below the
sea; that the trees of the forest should be green; and that
the fishes among the trees could sing so sweetly, that it was
quite a pleasure to hear them. Her grandmother called the
little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for
she had never seen birds.

"When you have reached your fifteenth year," said the
grand-mother, "you will have permission to rise up out of the
sea, to sit on the rocks in the moonlight, while the great
ships are sailing by; and then you will see both forests and
towns."

In the following year, one of the sisters would be
fifteen: but as each was a year younger than the other, the
youngest would have to wait five years before her turn came to
rise up from the bottom of the ocean, and see the earth as we
do. However, each promised to tell the others what she saw on
her first visit, and what she thought the most beautiful; for
their grandmother could not tell them enough; there were so
many things on which they wanted information. None of them
longed so much for her turn to come as the youngest, she who
had the longest time to wait, and who was so quiet and
thoughtful. Many nights she stood by the open window, looking
up through the dark blue water, and watching the fish as they
splashed about with their fins and tails. She could see the
moon and stars shining faintly; but through the water they
looked larger than they do to our eyes. When something like a
black cloud passed between her and them, she knew that it was
either a whale swimming over her head, or a ship full of human
beings, who never imagined that a pretty little mermaid was
standing beneath them, holding out her white hands towards the
keel of their ship.

As soon as the eldest was fifteen, she was allowed to rise
to the surface of the ocean. When she came back, she had
hundreds of things to talk about; but the most beautiful, she
said, was to lie in the moonlight, on a sandbank, in the quiet
sea, near the coast, and to gaze on a large town nearby, where
the lights were twinkling like hundreds of stars; to listen to
the sounds of the music, the noise of carriages, and the
voices of human beings, and then to hear the merry bells peal
out from the church steeples; and because she could not go
near to all those wonderful things, she longed for them more
than ever. Oh, did not the youngest sister listen eagerly to
all these descriptions? and afterwards, when she stood at the
open window looking up through the dark blue water, she
thought of the great city, with all its bustle and noise, and
even fancied she could hear the sound of the church bells,
down in the depths of the sea.

In another year the second sister received permission to
rise to the surface of the water, and to swim about where she
pleased. She rose just as the sun was setting, and this, she
said, was the most beautiful sight of all. The whole sky
looked like gold, while violet and rose-colored clouds, which
she could not describe, floated over her; and, still more
rapidly than the clouds, flew a large flock of wild swans
towards the setting sun, looking like a long white veil across
the sea. She also swam towards the sun; but it sunk into the
waves, and the rosy tints faded from the clouds and from the
sea.

The third sister's turn followed; she was the boldest of
them all, and she swam up a broad river that emptied itself
into the sea. On the banks she saw green hills covered with
beautiful vines; palaces and castles peeped out from amid the
proud trees of the forest; she heard the birds singing, and
the rays of the sun were so powerful that she was obliged
often to dive down under the water to cool her burning face.
In a narrow creek she found a whole troop of little human
children, quite naked, and sporting about in the water; she
wanted to play with them, but they fled in a great fright; and
then a little black animal came to the water; it was a dog,
but she did not know that, for she had never before seen one.
This animal barked at her so terribly that she became
frightened, and rushed back to the open sea. But she said she
should never forget the beautiful forest, the green hills, and
the pretty little children who could swim in the water,
although they had not fish's tails.

The fourth sister was more timid; she remained in the
midst of the sea, but she said it was quite as beautiful there
as nearer the land. She could see for so many miles around
her, and the sky above looked like a bell of glass. She had
seen the ships, but at such a great distance that they looked
like sea-gulls. The dolphins sported in the waves, and the
great whales spouted water from their nostrils till it seemed
as if a hundred fountains were playing in every direction.

The fifth sister's birthday occurred in the winter; so
when her turn came, she saw what the others had not seen the
first time they went up. 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. They were
of the most singular shapes, and glittered like diamonds. She
had seated herself upon one of the largest, and let the wind
play with her long hair, and she remarked that all the ships
sailed by rapidly, and steered as far away as they could from
the iceberg, as if they were afraid of it. Towards evening, as
the sun went down, dark clouds covered the sky, the thunder
rolled and the lightning flashed, and the red light glowed on
the icebergs as they rocked and tossed on the heaving sea. On
all the ships the sails were reefed with fear and trembling,
while she sat calmly on the floating iceberg, watching the
blue lightning, as it darted its forked flashes into the sea.

When first the sisters had permission to rise to the
surface, they were each delighted with the new and beautiful
sights they saw; but now, as grown-up girls, they could go
when they pleased, and they had become indifferent about it.
They wished themselves back again in the water, and after a
month had passed they said it was much more beautiful down
below, and pleasanter to be at home. Yet often, in the evening
hours, the five sisters would twine their arms round each
other, and rise to the surface, in a row. 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. But the
sailors could not understand the song, they took it for the
howling of the storm. And these things were never to be
beautiful for them; for if the ship sank, the men were
drowned, and their dead bodies alone reached the palace of the
Sea King.

When the sisters rose, arm-in-arm, through the water in
this way, their youngest sister would stand quite alone,
looking after them, ready to cry, only that the mermaids have
no tears, and therefore they suffer more. "Oh, were I but
fifteen years old," said she: "I know that I shall love the
world up there, and all the people who live in it."

At last she reached her fifteenth year. "Well, now, you
are grown up," said the old dowager, her grandmother; "so you
must let me adorn you like your other sisters;" and she placed
a wreath of white lilies in her hair, and every flower leaf
was half a pearl. Then the old lady ordered eight great
oysters to attach themselves to the tail of the princess to
show her high rank.

"But they hurt me so," said the little mermaid.

"Pride must suffer pain," replied the old lady. Oh, how
gladly she would have shaken off all this grandeur, and laid
aside the heavy wreath! The red flowers in her own garden
would have suited her much better, but she could not help
herself: so she said, "Farewell," and rose as lightly as a
bubble to the surface of the water. The sun had just set as
she raised her head above the waves; but the clouds were
tinted with crimson and gold, and through the glimmering
twilight beamed the evening star in all its beauty. The sea
was calm, and the air mild and fresh. A large ship, with three
masts, lay becalmed on the water, with only one sail set; for
not a breeze stiffed, and the sailors sat idle on deck or
amongst the rigging. There was music and song on board; and,
as darkness came on, a hundred colored lanterns were lighted,
as if the flags of all nations waved in the air. The little
mermaid swam close to the cabin windows; and now and then, as
the waves lifted her up, she could look in through clear glass
window-panes, and see a number of well-dressed people within.
Among them was a young prince, the most beautiful of all, with
large black eyes; he was sixteen years of age, and his
birthday was being kept with much rejoicing. 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. The little mermaid was so startled that she
dived under water; and when she again stretched out her head,
it appeared as if all the stars of heaven were falling around
her, she had never seen such fireworks before. Great suns
spurted fire about, splendid fireflies flew into the blue air,
and everything was reflected in the clear, calm sea beneath.
The ship itself was so brightly illuminated that all the
people, and even the smallest rope, could be distinctly and
plainly seen. And how handsome the young prince looked, as he
pressed the hands of all present and smiled at them, while the
music resounded through the clear night air.

It was very late; yet the little mermaid could not take
her eyes from the ship, or from the beautiful prince. The
colored lanterns had been extinguished, no more rockets rose
in the air, and the cannon had ceased firing; but the sea
became restless, and a moaning, grumbling sound could be heard
beneath the waves: still the little mermaid remained by the
cabin window, rocking up and down on the water, which enabled
her to look in. After a while, the sails were quickly
unfurled, and the noble ship continued her passage; but soon
the waves rose higher, heavy clouds darkened the sky, and
lightning appeared in the distance. A dreadful storm was
approaching; once more the sails were reefed, and the great
ship pursued her flying course over the raging sea. 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. To the little
mermaid this appeared pleasant sport; not so to the sailors.
At length the ship groaned and creaked; the thick planks gave
way under the lashing of the sea as it broke over the deck;
the mainmast snapped asunder like a reed; the ship lay over on
her side; and the water rushed in. The little mermaid now
perceived that the crew were in danger; even she herself was
obliged to be careful to avoid the beams and planks of the
wreck which lay scattered on the water. At one moment it was
so pitch dark that she could not see a single object, but a
flash of lightning revealed the whole scene; she could see
every one who had been on board excepting the prince; when the
ship parted, she had seen him sink into the deep waves, and
she was glad, for she thought he would now be with her; and
then she remembered that human beings could not live in the
water, so that when he got down to her father's palace he
would be quite dead. But he must not die. So she swam about
among the beams and planks which strewed the surface of the
sea, forgetting that they could crush her to pieces. Then she
dived deeply under the dark waters, rising and falling with
the waves, till at length she managed to reach the young
prince, who was fast losing the power of swimming in that
stormy sea. His limbs were failing him, his beautiful eyes
were closed, and he would have died had not the little mermaid
come to his assistance. She held his head above the water, and
let the waves drift them where they would.

In the morning the storm had ceased; but of the ship not a
single fragment could be seen. The sun rose up red and glowing
from the water, and its beams brought back the hue of health
to the prince's cheeks; but his eyes remained closed. The
mermaid kissed his high, smooth forehead, and stroked back his
wet hair; he seemed to her like the marble statue in her
little garden, and she kissed him again, and wished that he
might live. Presently they came in sight of land; she saw
lofty blue mountains, on which the white snow rested as if a
flock of swans were lying upon them. Near the coast were
beautiful green forests, and close by stood a large building,
whether a church or a convent she could not tell. Orange and
citron trees grew in the garden, and before the door stood
lofty palms. 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. Then bells
sounded in the large white building, and a number of young
girls came into the garden. 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. She did not wait long before she saw a young girl
approach the spot where he lay. She seemed frightened at
first, but only for a moment; then she fetched a number of
people, and the mermaid saw that the prince came to life
again, and smiled upon those who stood round him. But to her
he sent no smile; he knew not that she had saved him. This
made her very unhappy, and when he was led away into the great
building, she dived down sorrowfully into the water, and
returned to her father's castle. She had always been silent
and thoughtful, and now she was more so than ever. Her sisters
asked her what she had seen during her first visit to the
surface of the water; but she would tell them nothing. Many an
evening and morning did she rise to the place where she had
left the prince. 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. It was her only
comfort to sit in her own little garden, and fling her arm
round the beautiful marble statue which was like the prince;
but she gave up tending her flowers, and they grew in wild
confusion over the paths, twining their long leaves and stems
round the branches of the trees, so that the whole place
became dark and gloomy. At length she could bear it no longer,
and told one of her sisters all about it. Then the others
heard the secret, and very soon it became known to two
mermaids whose intimate friend happened to know who the prince
was. She had also seen the festival on board ship, and she
told them where the prince came from, and where his palace
stood.

"Come, little sister," said the other princesses; then
they entwined their arms and rose up in a long row to the
surface of the water, close by the spot where they knew the
prince's palace stood. It was built of bright yellow shining
stone, with long flights of marble steps, one of which reached
quite down to the sea. Splendid gilded cupolas rose over the
roof, and between the pillars that surrounded the whole
building stood life-like statues of marble. Through the clear
crystal of the lofty windows could be seen noble rooms, with
costly silk curtains and hangings of tapestry; while the walls
were covered with beautiful paintings which were a pleasure to
look at. In the centre of the largest saloon a fountain threw
its sparkling jets high up into the glass cupola of the
ceiling, through which the sun shone down upon the water and
upon the beautiful plants growing round the basin of the
fountain. Now that she knew where he lived, she spent many an
evening and many a night on the water near the palace. She
would swim much nearer the shore than any of the others
ventured to do; indeed once she went quite up the narrow
channel under the marble balcony, which threw a broad shadow
on the water. Here she would sit and watch the young prince,
who thought himself quite alone in the bright moonlight. She
saw him many times of an evening sailing in a pleasant boat,
with music playing and flags waving. She peeped out from among
the green rushes, and if the wind caught her long
silvery-white veil, those who saw it believed it to be a swan,
spreading out its wings. On many a night, too, when the
fishermen, with their torches, were out at sea, she heard them
relate so many good things about the doings of the young
prince, that she was glad she had saved his life when he had
been tossed about half-dead on the waves. And she remembered
that his head had rested on her bosom, and how heartily she
had kissed him; but he knew nothing of all this, and could not
even dream of her. She grew more and more fond of human
beings, and wished more and more to be able to wander about
with those whose world seemed to be so much larger than her
own. They could fly over the sea in ships, and mount the high
hills which were far above the clouds; and the lands they
possessed, their woods and their fields, stretched far away
beyond the reach of her sight. There was so much that she
wished to know, and her sisters were unable to answer all her
questions. Then she applied to her old grandmother, who knew
all about the upper world, which she very rightly called the
lands above the sea.

"If human beings are not drowned," asked the little
mermaid, "can they live forever? do they never die as we do
here in the sea?"

"Yes," replied the old lady, "they must also die, and
their term of life is even shorter than ours. We sometimes
live to three hundred years, but when we cease to exist here
we only become the foam on the surface of the water, and we
have not even a grave down here of those we love. We have not
immortal souls, we shall never live again; but, like the green
sea-weed, when once it has been cut off, we can never flourish
more. Human beings, on the contrary, have a soul which lives
forever, lives after the body has been turned to dust. It
rises up through the clear, pure air beyond the glittering
stars. As we rise out of the water, and behold all the land of
the earth, so do they rise to unknown and glorious regions
which we shall never see."

"Why have not we an immortal soul?" asked the little
mermaid mournfully; "I would give gladly all the hundreds of
years that I have to live, to be a human being only for one
day, and to have the hope of knowing the happiness of that
glorious world above the stars."

"You must not think of that," said the old woman; "we feel
ourselves to be much happier and much better off than human
beings."

"So I shall die," said the little mermaid, "and as the
foam of the sea I shall be driven about never again to hear
the music of the waves, or to see the pretty flowers nor the
red sun. Is there anything I can do to win an immortal soul?"

"No," said the old woman, "unless a man were to love you
so much that you were more to him than his father or mother;
and if all his thoughts and all his love were fixed upon you,
and the priest placed his right hand in yours, and he promised
to be true to you here and hereafter, then his soul would
glide into your body and you would obtain a share in the
future happiness of mankind. He would give a soul to you and
retain his own as well; but this can never happen. Your fish's
tail, which amongst us is considered so beautiful, is thought
on earth to be quite ugly; they do not know any better, and
they think it necessary to have two stout props, which they
call legs, in order to be handsome."

Then the little mermaid sighed, and looked sorrowfully at
her fish's tail. "Let us be happy," said the old lady, "and
dart and spring about during the three hundred years that we
have to live, which is really quite long enough; after that we
can rest ourselves all the better. This evening we are going
to have a court ball."

It is one of those splendid sights which we can never see
on earth. The walls and the ceiling of the large ball-room
were of thick, but transparent crystal. May hundreds of
colossal shells, some of a deep red, others of a grass green,
stood on each side in rows, with blue fire in them, which
lighted up the whole saloon, and shone through the walls, so
that the sea was also illuminated. Innumerable fishes, great
and small, swam past the crystal walls; on some of them the
scales glowed with a purple brilliancy, and on others they
shone like silver and gold. Through the halls flowed a broad
stream, and in it danced the mermen and the mermaids to the
music of their own sweet singing. No one on earth has such a
lovely voice as theirs. The little mermaid sang more sweetly
than them all. 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. But
she soon thought again of the world above her, for she could
not forget the charming prince, nor her sorrow that she had
not an immortal soul like his; therefore she crept away
silently out of her father's palace, and while everything
within was gladness and song, she sat in her own little garden
sorrowful and alone. Then she heard the bugle sounding through
the water, and thought- "He is certainly sailing above, he on
whom my wishes depend, and in whose hands I should like to
place the happiness of my life. I will venture all for him,
and to win an immortal soul, while my sisters are dancing in
my father's palace, I will go to the sea witch, of whom I have
always been so much afraid, but she can give me counsel and
help."

And then the little mermaid went out from her garden, and
took the road to the foaming whirlpools, behind which the
sorceress lived. She had never been that way before: neither
flowers nor grass grew there; nothing but bare, gray, sandy
ground stretched out to the whirlpool, where the water, like
foaming mill-wheels, whirled round everything that it seized,
and cast it into the fathomless deep. Through the midst of
these crushing whirlpools the little mermaid was obliged to
pass, to reach the dominions of the sea witch; and also for a
long distance the only road lay right across a quantity of
warm, bubbling mire, called by the witch her turfmoor. Beyond
this stood her house, in the centre of a strange forest, in
which all the trees and flowers were polypi, half animals and
half plants; they looked like serpents with a hundred heads
growing out of the ground. The branches were long slimy arms,
with fingers like flexible worms, moving limb after limb from
the root to the top. All that could be reached in the sea they
seized upon, and held fast, so that it never escaped from
their clutches. The little mermaid was so alarmed at what she
saw, that she stood still, and her heart beat with fear, and
she was very nearly turning back; but she thought of the
prince, and of the human soul for which she longed, and her
courage returned. She fastened her long flowing hair round her
head, so that the polypi might not seize hold of it. She laid
her hands together across her bosom, and then she darted
forward as a fish shoots through the water, between the supple
arms and fingers of the ugly polypi, which were stretched out
on each side of her. She saw that each held in its grasp
something it had seized with its numerous little arms, as if
they were iron bands. 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.

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. In the midst of this
spot stood a house, built with the bones of shipwrecked human
beings. There sat the sea witch, allowing a toad to eat from
her mouth, just as people sometimes feed a canary with a piece
of sugar. She called the ugly water-snakes her little
chickens, and allowed them to crawl all over her bosom.

"I know what you want," said the sea witch; "it is very
stupid of you, but you shall have your way, and it will bring
you to sorrow, my pretty princess. You want to get rid of your
fish's tail, and to have two supports instead of it, like
human beings on earth, so that the young prince may fall in
love with you, and that you may have an immortal soul." And
then the witch laughed so loud and disgustingly, that the toad
and the snakes fell to the ground, and lay there wriggling
about. "You are but just in time," said the witch; "for after
sunrise to-morrow I should not be able to help you till the
end of another year. I will prepare a draught for you, with
which you must swim to land tomorrow before sunrise, and sit
down on the shore and drink it. Your tail will then disappear,
and shrink up into what mankind calls legs, and you will feel
great pain, as if a sword were passing through you. But all
who see you will say that you are the prettiest little human
being they ever saw. You will still have the same floating
gracefulness of movement, and no dancer will ever tread so
lightly; but at every step you take it will feel as if you
were treading upon sharp knives, and that the blood must flow.
If you will bear all this, I will help you."

"Yes, I will," said the little princess in a trembling
voice, as she thought of the prince and the immortal soul.

"But think again," said the witch; "for when once your
shape has become like a human being, you can no more be a
mermaid. You will never return through the water to your
sisters, or to your father's palace again; and if you do not
win the love of the prince, so that he is willing to forget
his father and mother for your sake, and to love you with his
whole soul, and allow the priest to join your hands that you
may be man and wife, then you will never have an immortal
soul. The first morning after he marries another your heart
will break, and you will become foam on the crest of the
waves."

"I will do it," said the little mermaid, and she became
pale as death.

"But I must be paid also," said the witch, "and it is not
a trifle that I ask. 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. My own blood must be mixed with
it, that it may be as sharp as a two-edged sword."

"But if you take away my voice," said the little mermaid,
"what is left for me?"

"Your beautiful form, your graceful walk, and your
expressive eyes; surely with these you can enchain a man's
heart. Well, have you lost your courage? Put out your little
tongue that I may cut it off as my payment; then you shall
have the powerful draught."

"It shall be," said the little mermaid.

Then the witch placed her cauldron on the fire, to prepare
the magic draught.

"Cleanliness is a good thing," said she, scouring the
vessel with snakes, which she had tied together in a large
knot; then she pricked herself in the breast, and let the
black blood drop into it. The steam that rose formed itself
into such horrible shapes that no one could look at them
without fear. Every moment the witch threw something else into
the vessel, and when it began to boil, the sound was like the
weeping of a crocodile. When at last the magic draught was
ready, it looked like the clearest water. "There it is for
you," said the witch. Then she cut off the mermaid's tongue,
so that she became dumb, and would never again speak or sing.
"If the polypi should seize hold of you as you return through
the wood," said the witch, "throw over them a few drops of the
potion, and their fingers will be torn into a thousand
pieces." But the little mermaid had no occasion to do this,
for the polypi sprang back in terror when they caught sight of
the glittering draught, which shone in her hand like a
twinkling star.

So she passed quickly through the wood and the marsh, and
between the rushing whirlpools. She saw that in her father's
palace the torches in the ballroom were extinguished, and all
within asleep; but she did not venture to go in to them, for
now she was dumb and going to leave them forever, she felt as
if her heart would break. She stole into the garden, took a
flower from the flower-beds of each of her sisters, kissed her
hand a thousand times towards the palace, and then rose up
through the dark blue waters. The sun had not risen when she
came in sight of the prince's palace, and approached the
beautiful marble steps, but the moon shone clear and bright.
Then the little mermaid drank the magic draught, and it seemed
as if a two-edged sword went through her delicate body: she
fell into a swoon, and lay like one dead. When the sun arose
and shone over the sea, she recovered, and felt a sharp pain;
but just before her stood the handsome young prince. He fixed
his coal-black eyes upon her so earnestly that she cast down
her own, and then became aware that her fish's tail was gone,
and that she had as pretty a pair of white legs and tiny feet
as any little maiden could have; but she had no clothes, so
she wrapped herself in her long, thick hair. The prince asked
her who she was, and where she came from, and she looked at
him mildly and sorrowfully with her deep blue eyes; but she
could not speak. Every step she took was as the witch had said
it would be, she felt as if treading upon the points of
needles or sharp knives; but she bore it willingly, and
stepped as lightly by the prince's side as a soap-bubble, so
that he and all who saw her wondered at her graceful-swaying
movements. She was very soon arrayed in costly robes of silk
and muslin, and was the most beautiful creature in the palace;
but she was dumb, and could neither speak nor sing.

Beautiful female slaves, dressed in silk and gold, stepped
forward and sang before the prince and his royal parents: one
sang better than all the others, and the prince clapped his
hands and smiled at her. This was great sorrow to the little
mermaid; she knew how much more sweetly she herself could sing
once, and she thought, "Oh if he could only know that! I have
given away my voice forever, to be with him."

The slaves next performed some pretty fairy-like dances,
to the sound of beautiful music. Then the little mermaid
raised her lovely white arms, stood on the tips of her toes,
and glided over the floor, and danced as no one yet had been
able to dance. At each moment her beauty became more revealed,
and her expressive eyes appealed more directly to the heart
than the songs of the slaves. Every one was enchanted,
especially the prince, who called her his little foundling;
and she danced again quite readily, to please him, though each
time her foot touched the floor it seemed as if she trod on
sharp knives."

The prince said she should remain with him always, and she
received permission to sleep at his door, on a velvet cushion.
He had a page's dress made for her, that she might accompany
him on horseback. They rode together through the sweet-scented
woods, where the green boughs touched their shoulders, and the
little birds sang among the fresh leaves. She climbed with the
prince to the tops of high mountains; and although her tender
feet bled so that even her steps were marked, she only
laughed, and followed him till they could see the clouds
beneath them looking like a flock of birds travelling to
distant lands. While at the prince's palace, and when all the
household were asleep, she would go and sit on the broad
marble steps; for it eased her burning feet to bathe them in
the cold sea-water; and then she thought of all those below in
the deep.

Once during the night her sisters came up arm-in-arm,
singing sorrowfully, as they floated on the water. She
beckoned to them, and then they recognized her, and told her
how she had grieved them. After that, they came to the same
place every night; and once she saw in the distance her old
grandmother, who had not been to the surface of the sea for
many years, and the old Sea King, her father, with his crown
on his head. They stretched out their hands towards her, but
they did not venture so near the land as her sisters did.

As the days passed, she loved the prince more fondly, and
he loved her as he would love a little child, but it never
came into his head to make her his wife; yet, unless he
married her, she could not receive an immortal soul; and, on
the morning after his marriage with another, she would
dissolve into the foam of the sea.

"Do you not love me the best of them all?" the eyes of the
little mermaid seemed to say, when he took her in his arms,
and kissed her fair forehead.

"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. "He says
the maiden belongs to the holy temple, therefore she will
never return to the world. They will meet no more: while I am
by his side, and see him every day. I will take care of him,
and love him, and give up my life for his sake."

Very soon it was said that the prince must marry, and that
the beautiful daughter of a neighboring king would be his
wife, for a fine ship was being fitted out. Although the
prince gave out that he merely intended to pay a visit to the
king, it was generally supposed that he really went to see his
daughter. A great company were to go with him. The little
mermaid smiled, and shook her head. She knew the prince's
thoughts better than any of the others.

"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. "You are not afraid of
the sea, my dumb child," said he, as they stood on the deck of
the noble ship which was to carry them to the country of the
neighboring king. And then he told her of storm and of calm,
of strange fishes in the deep beneath them, and of what the
divers had seen there; and she smiled at his descriptions, for
she knew better than any one what wonders were at the bottom
of the sea.

In the moonlight, when all on board were asleep, excepting
the man at the helm, who was steering, she sat on the deck,
gazing down through the clear water. She thought she could
distinguish her father's castle, and upon it her aged
grandmother, with the silver crown on her head, looking
through the rushing tide at the keel of the vessel. Then her
sisters came up on the waves, and gazed at her mournfully,
wringing their white hands. She beckoned to them, and smiled,
and wanted to tell them how happy and well off she was; but
the cabin-boy approached, and when her sisters dived down he
thought it was only the foam of the sea which he saw.

The next morning the ship sailed into the harbor of a
beautiful town belonging to the king whom the prince was going
to visit. 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. Every day was a festival; balls and
entertainments followed one another.

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.
Then the little mermaid, who was very anxious to see whether
she was really beautiful, was obliged to acknowledge that she
had never seen a more perfect vision of beauty. Her skin was
delicately fair, and beneath her long dark eye-lashes her
laughing blue eyes shone with truth and purity.

"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 too 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.
All the church bells rung, and the heralds rode about the town
proclaiming the betrothal. Perfumed oil was burning in costly
silver lamps on every altar. The priests waved the censers,
while the bride and bridegroom joined their hands and received
the blessing of the bishop. The little mermaid, dressed in
silk and gold, held up the bride's train; but her ears heard
nothing of the festive music, and her eyes saw not the holy
ceremony; she thought of the night of death which was coming
to her, and of all she had lost in the world. On the same
evening the bride and bridegroom went on board ship; cannons
were roaring, flags waving, and in the centre of the ship a
costly tent of purple and gold had been erected. It contained
elegant couches, for the reception of the bridal pair during
the night. The ship, with swelling sails and a favorable wind,
glided away smoothly and lightly over the calm sea. When it
grew dark a number of colored lamps were lit, and the sailors
danced merrily on the deck. The little mermaid could not help
thinking of her first rising out of the sea, when she had seen
similar festivities and joys; and she joined in the dance,
poised herself in the air as a swallow when he pursues his
prey, and all present cheered her with wonder. She had never
danced so elegantly before. Her tender feet felt as if cut
with sharp knives, but she cared not for it; a sharper pang
had pierced through her heart. She knew this was the last
evening she should ever see the prince, for whom she had
forsaken her kindred and her home; she had given up her
beautiful voice, and suffered unheard-of pain daily for him,
while he knew nothing of it. This was the last evening that
she would breathe the same air with him, or gaze on the starry
sky and the deep sea; an eternal night, without a thought or a
dream, awaited her: she had no soul and now she could never
win one. All was joy and gayety on board ship till long after
midnight; she laughed and danced with the rest, while the
thoughts of death were in her heart. The prince kissed his
beautiful bride, while she played with his raven hair, till
they went arm-in-arm to rest in the splendid tent. Then all
became still on board the ship; the helmsman, alone awake,
stood at the helm. The little mermaid leaned her white arms on
the edge of the vessel, and looked towards the east for the
first blush of morning, for that first ray of dawn that would
bring her death. She saw her sisters rising out of the flood:
they were as pale as herself; but their long beautiful hair
waved no more in the wind, and had been cut off.

"We have given our hair to the witch," said they, "to
obtain help for you, that you may not die to-night. She has
given us a knife: here it is, see it is very sharp. Before the
sun rises you must plunge it into the heart of the prince;
when the warm blood falls upon your feet they will grow
together again, and form into a fish's tail, and you will be
once more a mermaid, and return to us to live out your three
hundred years before you die and change into the salt sea
foam. Haste, then; he or you must die before sunrise. Our old
grandmother moans so for you, that her white hair is falling
off from sorrow, as ours fell under the witch's scissors. Kill
the prince and come back; hasten: do you not see the first red
streaks in the sky? In a few minutes the sun will rise, and
you must die." And then they sighed deeply and mournfully, and
sank down beneath the waves.

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. The sun rose above the waves, and
his warm rays fell on the cold foam of the little mermaid, who
did not feel as if she were dying. She saw the bright sun, and
all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful
beings; she could see through them the white sails of the
ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was
melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as
they were also unseen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid
perceived that she had a body like theirs, and that she
continued to rise higher and higher out of the foam. "Where am
I?" asked she, and her voice sounded ethereal, as the voice of
those who were with her; no earthly music could imitate it.

"Among the daughters of the air," answered one of them. "A
mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one
unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of
another hangs her eternal destiny. But the daughters of the
air, although they do not possess an immortal soul, can, by
their good deeds, procure one for themselves. We fly to warm
countries, and cool the sultry air that destroys mankind with
the pestilence. We carry the perfume of the flowers to spread
health and restoration. After we have striven for three
hundred years to all the good in our power, we receive an
immortal soul and take part in the happiness of mankind. You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your whole heart to do as we are doing; you have suffered and endured and raised yourself to the spirit-world by your good deeds; and now, by striving for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul."

The little mermaid lifted her glorified eyes towards the
sun, and felt them, for the first time, filling with tears. 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. 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.

"After three hundred years, thus shall we float into the
kingdom of heaven," said she. "And we may even get there
sooner," whispered one of her companions. "Unseen we can enter
the houses of men, where there are children, and for every day
on which we find a good child, who is the joy of his parents
and deserves their love, our time of probation is shortened.
The child does not know, when we fly through the room, that we
smile with joy at his good conduct, for we can count one year
less of our three hundred years. But when we see a naughty or
a wicked child, we shed tears of sorrow, and for every tear a
day is added to our time of trial!"


THE END

 


 

 

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