The Story of Hilda's Mermaid
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Little Hilda was a sailors daughter and lived in a little cottage near the shore. Her father used to go on long voyages. She used to spin and knit while her father was away. Because she had lost her mother at a very young age, she took care of the house all alone. Some days she would go out in her boat for fishing because she was fond of the water. When the water was calm, Hilda would look down into the blue depths to try to see a mermaid. She was always very anxious to see one as her father has told her many stories about mermaids, how they sang and combed their beautiful long hair.
One night when the strong winds were blowing and the rain was beating hard upon her window, Hilda bravely lighted her father’s big lantern and ran down to the shore and hung it on the mast of a wreck which lay there, so the sailors would not run their ships upon it. When she returned back to her cottage, she found the door was unlatched. She thought that the wind might have blown it open. When she entered her cottage, she found a little girl with beautiful hairs sitting on the floor. The girl wore a green dress and it was wound around her body in the strangest manner.
The girl said “I saw your light and came in. The wind blew me far up on shore. I should not have come up on a night like this, but a big wave looked so tempting I thought I would jump on it and have a nice ride, but it was nearer to the shore than I thought and that’s how I landed right at your door.”
“Oh, my!” How Hilda’s heart started to beat for she knew this girl was a mermaid. Then Hilda realized that what she had thought as a green dress was really her body and tail curled up on the floor which was now glistening in the lamp’s light.
“Will you have some of my supper?” asked Hilda, for she wanted to be hospitable, although she had no idea what mermaids ate.
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“Thank you,” answered the mermaid. “I am not very hungry, but if you could give me a seaweed sandwich, I should like it.”
Poor Hilda did not know what to do, so she went to the closet and brought out some bread on which she spread fresh butter and filled a glass with milk. “Here’s your bread and butter. I’m sorry I couldn’t find any seaweed sandwiches, I hope you’ll like this.” The little mermaid ate it and was pleased.
Mermaid asked Hilda “Do you live here all the time? I think you must be warm and want to be in the water for most of the time”
Hilda replied, “You are very special! I can’t survive in the water as you do, my body is not like yours.”
“Oh, I am so sorry!I hoped you would visit me some time. I have such a good time with my sisters” replied the mermaid.
Hilda sat on the floor beside the mermaid and said “Tell me more about your home,”
The mermaid felt Hilda’s clothes, “It must bother you to wear so many clothes. How do you manage to swim in these?” she asked.
Hilda replied, “ Yes, I put my bathing suit and swim.”
“I will tell you about our house first,” mermaid began. “Our father, Neptune, lives in a beautiful castle at the bottom of the sea. It is built of mother-of-pearl. All around the castle there are beautiful green things and fine white sand around it. All my sisters live there, we are always happy to return home after we have been at the top of the ocean, our house is always cool. The wind never blows there and the rain does not reach us.”
“You do not mind being wet by the rain, do you?” asked Hilda.
“Oh no!” said the mermaid, “but the rain hurts us. It falls in little sharp points and feels like pebbles.”
“How do you know how pebbles feel?” Hilda asked.
“Oh, sometimes the nereids – the sea nymphs – come and bother us, they throw pebbles to stir up the water. But we use the dogfish to drive them away. Nereids are very jealous of us because we are more beautiful.” said the mermaid.
Hilda thought to herself “She is so proud of herself.”
“How do you find your way home after you have been at the top of the ocean?” asked Hilda.
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“Oh, when Father Neptune counts us and finds anyone missing, he sends a whale to spout, sometimes he sends more than one, and we know where to dive when we see them.”
“What do you eat besides seaweed sandwiches?” asked Hilda.
“Fish eggs and little fishes,” answered the mermaid. “When we have a party we also have cake.”
Hilda opened her eyes. “Where do you get cake from?” she asked.
“We make it. We grind coral into flour and mix it with fish eggs, then we put it in a shell and send a mermaid to the top of the ocean with it and she holds it in the sun until it bakes. We go to the Gulf Stream and gather grapes and we have sea-foam and lemonade to drink.”
“Lemonade?” said Hilda. “Where do you get your lemons?”
“Why, the sea-lemon!” replied the mermaid; “that is a small mussel-fish the color of a lemon.”
“What do you do at your parties–you cannot dance?” asked Hilda.
“We swim to the music, circle around and dive and glide.” answered mermaid.
“But the music- where do you get musicians?” Hilda continued.
“We have plenty of music,” replied the mermaid. “The sea-elephant trumpets for us, then there is pipefish, the swordfish runs the scales of the sea-adder with his sword, the sea-shells blob and altogether we have splendid music. But now it’s too late, we should not talk anymore”
So the little mermaid curled herself up and soon they were both asleep.
The sun shining in the window awakened Hilda next morning and she looked about her. The mermaid was not there, but Hilda was sure it was not a dream as she found pieces of seaweed on the floor. Now whenever she goes out in her boat, she looks for her friend and when the whales spout, she knows they were telling the mermaids to come home.