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Serpent Prince.

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The Prince, who had been so nearly at the point of death that no one would have believed to see him that there was any life in him at all, immediately sat up, recovered and well. He did not recognise the Princess, and when the King, his father, told him the terms on which she had saved his life, and presented the maiden to him, he refused. 'For the great service you have rendered me I am grateful indeed,' he said; 'but I cannot marry you. My heart is already given to another, and not even for my life will I be false to my word.' When she heard this the Princess was secretly overjoyed; but she pretended to be greatly displeased, and she disdainfully rejected all other offers of reward that were made to her by the King and the Prince.

'Tell me who this other is, and I will go to her and get her to relinquish you in my favour,' she said at length. 'When she learns what I have done for you, I am sure she will agree that my claim is greater than hers.' 'It is the Princess Grannmia; but that I am sure she will never do,' said the Prince proudly. 'Even if she would, I will not. What is life without love? and I would rather be a serpent again, and live in the cottage of a poor forester all my days, than rule this kingdom without my beloved Princess.' On hearing this the Princess could no longer keep her secret. 'You must love me indeed, dear Prince,' she said, 'if you do not recognise me when I come pleading to you to carry out your promise after saving your life, and marry me as you would have done when the King, my father, drove you away from me.' Then the Prince recognised her, and he embraced her so heartily that the Princess wondered whether he was still a serpent or only just a strong young man who was very much in love with her, while the King went out and gave immediate orders to set the bells a-ringing, and have preparations made on the most lavish scale for the wedding feast.

The end.


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