78 THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
first day I cut enough wood to sell for a tolerable sum, and very soon I became more expert, and had made enough money to repay the tailor all he had lent me.
I had been a wood-cutter for more than a year, when one day I wandered further into the forest than I had ever done before, and reached a delicious green glade, where I began to cut wood. I was hacking at the root of a tree, when I beheld an iron ring fastened to a trap-door of the same metal. I soon cleared away the earth, and pulling up the door, found a staircase, which I hastily made up my mind to go down, carrying my hatchet with me by way of protection. When I reached the bottom I discovered that I was in a huge palace, as brilliantly lighted as any palace above ground that I had ever seen, with a long gallery supported by pillars of jasper, ornamented with capitals of gold. Down this gallery a lady came to meet me, of such beauty that I forgot everything else, and thought only of her.
To save her all the trouble possible, I hastened towards her, and bowed low.
' Who are you? Who are you? ' she said. ' A man or a genius?'
' A man, madam,' I replied; i I have nothing to do with genii.'
'By what accident do you come here?' she asked again with a sigh. ' I have been in this place now for five and twenty years, and you are the first man who has visited me.'
Emboldened by her beauty and gentleness, I ventured to reply, ' Before, madam, I answer your question, allow me to say how grateful I am for this meeting, which is not only a consolation to me in my own heavy sorrow, but may perhaps enable me to render your lot happier,' and then I told her who I was, and how I had come there.
i Alas, prince,' she said, with a deeper sigh than before, ' you have guessed rightly in supposing me an unwilling prisoner in this gorgeous place. I am the daughter of