It was not long before one of the maidens came up to him. At first she seemed quite frightened, but only for a moment, and then she fetched several others, and then Gayatri saw that Ranaji was coming to life, and that he smiled at all those around him, but he never smiled at her.
He did not even know that she had saved him.
Ranaji has a vague impression that he was rescued by a girl with a beautiful voice; he vows to find her.
She felt so sad that when he was led away into the great building she dived sorrowfully into the water and made her way home to her father’s palace.
Always silent and thoughtful, she became more so now than ever.
Her sisters often asked her what she had seen on her first visit to the surface, but she never would tell them anything.
Many an evening and many a morning she would rise to the place where she had left the prince. She saw the fruit in the garden ripen, and then gathered, she saw the snow melt on the mountain-tops, but she never saw Ranaji, so she always went home still sadder than before. At home her only consolation was to sit in her little
Garden with her arms twined round the handsome marble statue which reminded her of the Ranaji. It was all in gloomy shade now, as she had ceased to tend her flowers, and the garden had become and neglected wilderness of long stalks and leaves entangled with the branches of the tree.
At last she could not bear it any longer, so she told one of her sisters, and from her it soon spread to the others, but to no one else except to one or two other mermaids who only told their dearest friends. One of these knew all about the Ranaji; she had also seen the festivities on the ship; she knew where he came from and where his kingdom was situated.
‘Come, Gayatri!’ said the other princesses, and, throwing their arms round each other’s shoulders, they rose from the water in a long line, just in front of the prince’s palace.
It was built of light white glistening stone, with great marble staircases, one of which led into the garden. Magnificent gilded cupolas rose above the roof, and the spaces between the columns which encircled the building were filled with life-like marble statues. Through the clear glass of the lofty windows you could see gorgeous halls adorned with costly silken hangings, and the pictures on the walls were a sight worth seeing. In the midst of the central hall a large
fountain played, throwing its jets of spray upwards to a glass dome in the roof, through which the sunbeams lighted up the water and the beautiful plants which grew in the great basin.
She knew now where he lived, and often used to go there in the evenings and by night over the water. She swam much nearer the land than any of the others dared.
She used to sit here looking at Ranaji, who thought he was quite alone in the clear moonlight.
She saw him many an evening sailing about in his beautiful boat, with flags waving and music playing; she used to peep through the green rushes, and if the wind happened to catch her long silvery veil and any one saw it, they only thought it was a swan flapping its wings.
Many a night she heard the fishermen, who were fishing by torchlight, talking over the good deeds of Ranaji; and she was happy to think that she had saved his life when he was drifting about on the waves, half dead, and she could not forget how closely his head had pressed her breast, and how passionately she had kissed him; but he knew nothing of all this, and never saw her even in his dreams.
She became fonder and fonder of Ranaji, and longed more and more to be able to live with him; his world seemed so infinitely bigger than hers.
There was so much that she wanted to know, but her sisters could not give an answer to all her questions, so she asked her old grandmother, who knew the upper world well, and rightly called it the country above the sea.
‘If men are not drowned,’ asked Gayatri, ‘do they live for ever? Do they not die as we do down here in the sea?’
‘Yes,’ said the old lady, ‘they have to die too, and their lifetime is even shorter than ours. We may live here for three hundred years, but when we cease to exist we become mere foam on the water and do not have so much as a grave among our dear ones. We have no immortal souls; we have no future life; we are just like the green seaweed, which, once cut down, can never revive again!
Men, on the other hand, have a soul which lives for ever, lives after the body has become dust; it rises through the clear air, up to the shining stars!
Just as we rise from the water to see the land of mortals, so they rise up to unknown beautiful regions which we shall never see.’
‘Why have we no immortal souls?’ asked Gayatri sadly.
‘I would give all my three hundred years to be a human being for one day, and afterwards to have a share in the heavenly kingdom of Ranaji.’
‘You must not be thinking about that,’ said the grandmother; ‘we are much better off and happier than human beings.’
Is there nothing I can do to gain an immortal soul?’
‘No,’ said the grandmother; ‘only if a human being so loved you that you were more to him , could you gain a share in the felicity of mankind.
But that can never happen! That which is your greatest beauty in the sea, your fish’s tail, is thought hideous up on earth, so little do they understand about it; to be pretty there you must have two clumsy supports which they call legs!’
Then Gayatri sighed and looked sadly at her fish’s tail.
she soon began to think again about the upper world, she could not forget the handsome Ranaji and her sorrow in not able to live with him.
Therefore she stole out of her father’s palace, and while all within was joy and merriment, she sat sadly in her little garden. Suddenly she heard the sound of a horn through the water, and she thought, ‘Now he is out sailing up there; he whom I love more than father or mother, he to whom my thoughts cling and to whose hands I am ready to commit the happiness of my life.
I will dare anything to win him and to gain an immortal soul!
While my sisters are dancing in my father’s palace I will go to the seawitch, of whom I have always been very much afraid; she will perhaps be able to advise and help me!’
Thereupon Gayatri left the garden and went towards the roaring whirlpools at the back of which the witch lived.
She had never been that way before; no flowers grew there, no seaweed, only the bare grey sands, stretched towards the whirlpools, which like rushing mill-wheels swirled round, dragging everything that came within reach down to the depths. She had to pass between these boiling eddies to reach the witch’s domain.
Her house stood behind this in the midst of a weird forest. All the trees and bushes were polyps, half animal and half plant.
Gayatri standing outside was quite frightened, her heart beat fast with terror and she nearly turned back, but then she remembered about Ranaji and the immortal soul of mankind and took courage.
She bound her long flowing hair tightly round her head, so that the polyps should not seize her by it, folded her hands over her breast,and darted like a fish through the water.
Then she came to a large opening in the wood where the ground was all slimy.
‘I know very well what you have come here for,’ said the witch. ‘It is very foolish of you! all the same you shall have your way, because it will lead you into misfortune, my fine princess.
You want to get rid of your fish’s tail, and instead to have two stumps to walk about upon like human beings, so that the prince Indravardhan may fall in love with you, and that you may win him and an immortal soul.’ Saying
this, she gave such a loud hideous laugh that Gayatri took step back in horror.
‘You are just in the nick of time,’ said the witch; ‘after sunrise tomorrow I should not be able to help you until another year had run
its course. I will make you a potion, and before sunrise you must swim ashore with it, seat yourself on the beach and drink it; then
your tail will divide and shrivel up to what men call beautiful legs.
But it hurts; it is as if a sharp sword were running through you. All who see you will say that you are the most beautiful child of man
they have ever seen. You will keep your gliding gait, no dancer will rival you, but every step you take will be as if you were treading
upon sharp knives, so sharp as to draw blood. If you are willing to suffer all this I am ready to help you!’
Gayatri realises that she so loves the handsome Ranaji that she could give anything to be with him and gain an immortal soul.
She was so desperate to marry Ranaji and gain a soul that she readily agrees, despite this gamble; she also agrees to the sea witch’s demand for a payment, which is to possess the mermaid’s beautiful singing voice. This means the she will be able to become a woman, but a mute one, unable to sing, or speak.
‘Yes!’ said Gayatri with a trembling voice, thinking of Ranaji.
‘But remember,’ said the witch, ‘You must receive the ‘kiss of true love’ from Ranaji; And if you do not succeed in winning the prince’s love, you will gain no immortal soul!
The first morning after his marriage with another your heart will break, and you will turn into Mermaid again.’
‘I will do it,’ said Gayatri as pale as death.
‘But you will have to pay me, too,’ said the witch, ‘and it is no trifle that I demand. You have the most beautiful voice of any at the bottom of the sea, and I daresay that you think you will fascinate him with it; but you must give me that voice; I will have the best you possess in return for my precious potion!
‘But if you take my voice,’ said Gayatri, ‘what have I left?’
‘Your beautiful form,’ said the witch, ‘your gliding gait, and your speaking eyes; with these you ought surely to be able to bewitch a human heart. Well! have you lost courage?
‘Let it be done,’ said Gayatri and the witch made the the potion and it looked like the clearest water.
‘There it is,’ said the witch, and thereupon she, took the possession of Gayatri’s beautiful singing voice. This means Gayatri will be able to become a woman, but a mute one, unable to sing, or speak.
She saw her father’s palace; the lights were all out in the great ballroom, and no doubt all the household was asleep, but she did not dare to go in now that she was dumb and about to leave her home for ever. She felt as if her heart would break with grief. She stole into the garden and plucked a flower from each of her sisters’ plots, wafted with her hand countless kisses towards the palace, and then rose up through the dark blue water.
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thanks for awesome response to first chapter, hopefully will continue and finish this story soon. 😇