36 THE YELLOW DWARF,
' What shall I do ? ' she cried. ' Must all my happy days come to an end like this ? '
The malicious Dwarf looked at her and began to laugh spitefully. ' At least,' said he, ' you have the satisfaction of dying unmarried. A lovely princess like you must surely prefer to die rather than be the wife of a poor little dwarf like myself.'
' Oh ! don't be angry with me,' cried the Princess, clasping her hands. ' I'd rather marry all the dwarfs in the world than die in this horrible way.'
' Look at me well, Princess, before you give me your word,' said he. ' I don't want you to promise me in a hurry.'
' Oh ! ' cried she, ' the lions are coming. I have looked at you enough. I am so frightened. Save me this minute, or I shall die of terror.'
Indeed, as she spoke she fell down insensible, and when she recovered she found herself in her own little bed at home ; how she got there she could not tell, but she was dressed in the most beautiful lace and ribbons, and on her finger was a little ring, made of a single red hair, which fitted so tightly that, try as she might, she could not get it off.
When the Princess saw all these things, and remembered what had happened, she, too, fell into the deepest sadness, which surprised and alarmed the whole Court, and the Queen more than anyone else. A hundred times she asked Bellissima if anything was the matter with her; but she always said that there was nothing.
At last the chief men of the kingdom, anxious to see their Princess married, sent to the Queen to beg her to choose a husband for her as soon as possible. She replied that nothing would please her better, but that her daughter seemed so unwilling to marry, and she recommended them to go and talk to the Princess about it themselves ; so this they at once did. Now Bellissima was much less proud since her adventure with the Yellow Dwarf, and she could not think of a better way of getting rid of the little monster than to marry some powerful king, therefore she replied to their request much more favourably than .they had hoped, saying that, though she was very happy as she was, still, to please them, she would consent to marry the King of the Gold Mines. Now he was a very handsome and powerful Prince, who had been in love with the Princess for years, but had not thought that she would ever care about him at all. You can easily imagine how delighted he was when he heard the news, and how angry it made all the other