THE MERMAID AND THE BOY 175
' It is late,' remarked one of the women at last; ' I must go to my mistress.' And, turning to one of the lackeys, she bade him find a bed for the youth.
' It is not necessary,' answered the prince, ' this bench is good enough for me. I am used to nothing better.' And when the hall was empty he lay down for a few minutes. But as soon as everything was quiet in the palace he took out the hair and wished himself a bee, and in this shape he flew upstairs, past the guards, and through the keyhole into the princess's chamber. Then he turned himself into a man again.
At this dreadful sight the princess, who was broad awake, began to scream loudly. ' A man ! a man !' cried she; but when the guards rushed in there was only a bumble-bee buzzing about the room. They looked under the bed, and behind the curtains, and into the cupboards, then came to the conclusion that the princess had had a bad dream, and bowed themselves out. The door had scarcely closed on them than the bee disappeared, and a handsome youth stood in his place.
' I kneiv a man was hidden somewhere,' cried the princess, and screamed more loudly than before. Her shrieks brought back the guards, but though they looked in all kinds of impossible places no man was to be seen, and so they told the princess.
' He was here a moment ago—I saw him with my own eyes,' and the guards dared not contradict her, though they shook their heads and whispered to each other that the princess had gone mad on this subject, and saw a man in every table and chair. And they made up their minds that—let her scream as loudly as she might— they would take no notice.
Now the princess saw clearly what they were thinking, and that in future her guards would give her no help, and would perhaps, besides, tell some stories about her to the king, who would shut her up in a lonely tower and prevent her walking in the gardens among her birds and