"Not so," replied the mermaid. "I cannot live in your cold land. I cannot bide your black rain and your white snow. And your hot sun and smoky fires would wizen me up in a week. Come with me, my bonny lad. I’ll make you a chief among the Finfolk. Come away, come away with me."
"Oh, no," said Johnny. "You cannot entice me – I was not born yesterday. But come you to my stately house at Volyar. There I have plenty of gear; I have cows and sheep. I will make you mistress of all my store. Never shall you want for what I can give you."
But the mermaid shook her head.
"Come, come now with me, my bonnie man. I will set you in a crystal palace under the sea. There the sunbeams never blind, there the winds do not blow, and the raindrops never fall. Oh, come away with me, and be my love, and we shall both be happy as the day is long."
"It is for the lass to follow the lad," said Johnny Croy. "Just come away and bide with me, my darling Gem-de-Lovely." So there they stood, each tempting the other. And the longer they gazed, the better they loved. But at last Gem-de-Lovely saw folk coming far airway. Bidding Johnny farewell, she swam out to sea, singing mournfully, "Alas, alas. My golden comb. Alas, my bonnie man."
Johnny watched her go, her golden locks shining over her white shoulders like sunbeams glinting over sea-foam. Then he went home with a sore heart but carrying the treasured golden comb.
His mother was a Spae-Wife - a wise woman - and Johnny Croy told her his tale and asked her advice.
"Great fool that you are!" said his mother sharply. "To fall in love with a sea maid when any land lass would be glad of you! But men will be fools all the world over. To bring this sea wife to you, you must keep her comb well hidden; it is her dearest treasure. Keep it, and you have power over her. But be wise, my son. Take my advice. Cast the comb into the sea, and forget her. The folk of the sea are not of God’s people."
But Johnny Croy could not do that.
"Then," said Grannie Croy, "she may make a bright summer for you, but it will end in a woeful winter. I have seen that you will ride your own road, though you sink in the quagmire at its end. Only one I can save – I would it were you, my son. But what will be, will be."
Well, Johnny went about his work like one bewitched, thinking all the while of his Gem-de-Lovely and the cautionary words of his mother. But he put the comb up safely for all that.
Then came a night when he could not sleep for thinking of his lost love. Towards morning he dozed and at day-break was wakened by beautiful music.
He lay a while as if enchanted - it was the voice that he had last heard at the shore.
Opening his eyes he saw that Gem-de-Lovely was sitting at the foot of the bed, the most beautiful being that ever gladdened a man’s eyes. Her face was so fair, her hair so gleaming, and her dress so splendid that Johnny took her for a vision and tried to say a prayer. But never a word of prayer came to his lips.
"My bonnie man," said the mermaid, "I’m come to ask again for my golden comb. I’m come to see if you will live with me in my crystal palace under the waves."
"‘No," said Johnny. "No, that I cannot do. But unless you bide with me now and be my loving wife, my