THE GREEN FAIRY BOOK.
"As yon like," said the little soldier. "He laughs best who laughs the last;" and he took the princess in his arms. "I wish," he cried, "that we were at the ends of the earth;" and in one second he was there, still clasping the princess tightly in his arms.
"Ouf," said" John, laying her gently at the foot of a . tree. "I never took such a long journey before. What do you say, madam?" The princess understood that it was no tirne for jesting and did not answer. Besides, she was still feeling giddy from her rapid flight and had not yet collected her senses.
The King of the Low Countries was not a very scrupulous person, and his daughter took after him. This was why she had been changed into a serpent. It had been prophesied that she should be delivered by a little soldier, and that she must marry him unless he failed to appear at the meeting-place three times running. The cunning princess then laid her plans accordingly.
The wine that she had given to John in the castle of the goblins, the bouquet of immortelles, and the scarf, all had che power of producing sleep like death. And we know how they had acted on John.
However, even in this critical moment Ludovine did not lose her head.
"I thought you were simply a street vagabond," said she in her most coaxing voice, "and I find you are more powerful than any king. Here is your purse. Have you got my scarf and my bouquet?"
"Here they are," said the kinglet, delighted with this change of tone, and he drew them from his bosom. Ludovine fastened one in his button-hole and the other round his arm.
"Now," she said, "you are my lord and master, and I will marry you at your good pleasure."
"You are kinder than I thought," said John, "and you shall never be unhappy, for I love you."
"Then, my little husband, tell me how you managed to carry me so quickly to the ends of the world."
The little soldier scratched his head. "Does she reallv mean to marry me," he thought to himself, "or is she only trying tp deceive me again?"