THE YELLOW DWARF
elegies, madrigals, and songs, which were sent her by all the poets in the world. All the prose and the poetry that was written just then was about Bellissima—for that was the Princess's name—and all the bonfires that they had were made of these verses, which crackled and sparkled better than any other sort of wood.
Bellissima was already fifteen years old, and every one of the Princes wished to marry her, but not one dared to say so. How could they when they knew that any of them might have cut off his head five or six times a day just to please her, and she would have thought it a mere trifle, so little did she care ? You may imagine how hard-hearted her lovers thought her; and the Queen, who wished to see her married, did not know how to persuade her to think of it seriously.
' Belhssirna,' she said, ' I do wish you would not be so proud. What makes you despise all these nice kings ? I wish you to marry one of them, and you do not try to please me.'
' I am so happy,' Bellissima answered : ' do leave me in peace, madam. I don't want to care for anyone.'
' But you would be very happy with any of these princes,' said the Queen, ' and I shall be very angry if you fall in love with anyone who is not worthy of you.'
But the Princess thought so much of herself that she did not consider any one of her lovers clever or handsome enough for her; and her mother, who was getting really angry at her determination not to be married, began to wish that she had not allowed her to have her own way so much.
At last, not knowing what else to do, she resolved to consult a certain witch who was called ' The Fairy of the Desert.' Now this was very difficult to do, as she was guarded by some terrible lions; but happily the Queen had heard a long time before that whoever wanted to pass these lions safely must throw to them a cake made of millet flour, sugar-candy, and crocodile's eggs. This cake she prepared with her own hands, and putting it in a little basket, she set out to seek the Fairy. But as she was not used to walking far, she soon felt very tired and sat down at the foot of a tree to rest, and presently fell fast asleep. "When she awoke she was dismayed to find her basket empty. The cake was all gone! and, to make matters worse, at that moment she heard the roaring of the great lions, who had found out that she was near and were coming to look for her.
' What shall I do ? ' she cried; ' I shall be eaten up,' and being