RESENTLY 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 followed.
"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 sleep again."
"Just give me a glass of wine and a biscuit first," said the prince, very humbly.
"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 mind it?"
"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 away directly."
"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 felt better.
"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 up."
"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 neck.
"Will you kiss me, princess?" said he, feebly. The nonchalance was all gone now.
"Yes, I will," answered the princess, and kissed him with a long, sweet, cold kiss.
"Now," said he, with a sigh of content, "I die happy."