162 THE GARDEN OF PARADISE
every step the Prince's cheeks burned more hotly and his blood flowed more rapidly.
'1 must! ' said he. ' It is no sin, it cannot be one. Why not follow beauty and joy ? I only want to see her asleep ; there will be nothing lost if I only refrain from kissing her ; and I will not kiss her : I am strong and have a resolute will ! '
And the Fairy threw off her shining cloak and bent back the branches, and in another moment she was hidden among them.
' I have not yet sinned,' said the Prince, ' and I will not.'
And he pushed the boughs aside. There she slept already, beautiful as only a fairy in the Garden of Paradise can be. She smiled in her dreams, and he bent over her, and saw tears quivering beneath her eyelids !
' Do you weep for me ? ' he whispered. ' Weep not, thou glorious woman ! Now only I understand the bliss of Paradise ! It streams through my blood, through my thoughts ; the power of the angel and of increasing life I feel in my mortal body ! Let what will happen to me now ; one moment like this is wealth enough ! '
And he kissed the tears from her eyes—his mouth touched hers.
Then there resounded a clap of thunder so loud and dreadful that no one had ever heard the like, and everything fell down ; and the beautiful Fairy and the charming Paradise sank down, deeper and deeper. The Prince saw it vanish into the black night; like a little bright star it gleamed out of the far distance. A deadly chill ran through his frame, and he closed his eyes and lay for a long time as one dead.
The cold rain fell upon his face, the keen wind roared round his head, and then his senses returned to him.
1 What have I done ? ' he sighed. * I have sinned like Adam—sinned so that Paradise has sunk deep down ! '
And he opened his eyes, and the star in the distance— the star that gleamed like the Paradise that had sunk down, was the morning star in the sky.
He stood up, and found himself in the great forest, close by the Cave of the Winds, and the mother of the Winds