180 THE MERMAID AND THE BOY
all the guests rushed out of the hall, treading each other underfoot in their fright. The lion sprang at the Eed Knight, and would have torn him in pieces had not the princess held him back, and bidden him to change himself into a man again. And in a second a man took the place of the lion.
' Now become a bear,' said she; and a bear advanced panting and stretching out his arms to the Eed Knight, who shrank behind the princess.
By this time some of the guests had regained their courage, and returned as far as the door, thinking that if it was safe for the princess perhaps it was safe for them. The king, who was braver than they, and felt it needful to set them a good example besides, had never left his seat, and when at a new command of the princess the bear once more turned into a man, he was silent from astonishment, and a suspicion of the truth began to dawn on him. ' Was it he who fetched the sword ? ' asked the king.
' Yes, it was,' answered the princess; and she told him the whole story, and how she had broken her gold ring and given him half of it. And the prince took out his half of the ring, and the princess took out hers, and they fitted exactly. Next day the Ked Knight was hanged, as he richly deserved, and there was a new marriage feast for the prince and princess.