144 THE WILD SWANS
And then he lifted her on his horse. She wept and wrung her hands ; but the King said,
' I only wish for your happiness : one day you will thank me for this.'
And then he galloped away among the mountains with her on his horse, and the hunters galloped at their heels.
When the sun went down, the fair regal city lay before them, with its churches and cupolas ; and the King led her into the castle, where great fountains plashed in the lofty marble halls, and where walls and ceilings were covered with glorious pictures. But she had no eyes for all this—she only wept and mourned. Passively she let the women put royal robes upon her, and weave pearls in her hair, and draw dainty gloves over her blistered fingers.
When she stood there in full array, she was dazzlingly beautiful, so that the Court bowed deeper than ever. And the King chose her for his bride, although the archbishop shook his head and whispered that the beauteous forest maid was certainly a witch, who blinded the eyes and led astray the heart of the King.
But the King gave no ear to this, but ordered that the music should sound, and the costliest dishes should be served, and the most beautiful maidens should dance before them. And she was led through fragrant gardens into gorgeous halls ; but never a smile came upon her lips or shone in her eyes : there she stood, a picture of grief. Then the King opened a little chamber close by, where she was to sleep. This chamber was decked with splendid green tapestry, and completely resembled the cave in which she had been. On the floor lay the bundle of flax which she had prepared from the nettles, and under the ceiling hung the shirt of mail she had completed. All these things one of the huntsmen had brought with him as curiosities.
1 Here you may dream yourself back in your former home,' said the King. ' Here is the work which occupied you there, and now, in the midst of all your splendour, it will amuse you to think of that time.'
When Eliza saw this that lay so near her heart, a smile played round her mouth and the crimson, blood came back into her cheeks. She thought of her brothers' deliverance, and kissed the King's hand ; and he pressed her to his