THE LITTLE SOLDIER. 173
"How much are they?" said the princess.
"Fifty crowns each."
"Fifty crowns! But what is there so very precious about them? Do they give one wit or will they increase one's beauty?"
"They could not increase what is perfect already, fair princess, but still they might add something."
Eolling stones gather no moss, but they sometimes gain polish; and the months which John had spent in roaming about the world had not been wasted. Such a neatly turned compliment flattered Ludovine.
"What will they add?" she smilingly asked.
"You will see, fair princess, when you taste them. It will be a surprise for you."
Ludovine's curiosity was aroused. She drew out the purse and shook out as many little heaps of 50 crowns as there were plums in the basket. The little soldier was seized with a wild desire to snatch the purse from her and proclaim her a thief, but he managed to control himself.
His plums all sold, he shut up shop, took off his disguise, changed his inn, and kept quiet, waiting to see what would happen.
No sooner had she reached her room than the princess exclaimed, "Now let us see what these fine plums can add to my beauty," and throwing off her hood, she picked up a couple and ate them.
Imagine with what surprise and horror she felt all of a sudden that something was growing out of her forehead. She flew to her mirror and uttered a piercing cry.
"Horns! so that was what he promised me! Let some one find the plum-seller at once and bring him to me! Let his nose and ears be cut off! Let him be flayed alive or burned at a slow fire and his ashes scattered to the winds! Oh, I shall die of shame and despair!"
Her women ran at the sound of her screams and tried to wrench off the horns, but it was of no use, and they only gave her a violent headache.
The king then sent round a herald to proclaim that he would give the hand of the princess to any one who would rid her of her strange ornaments. So all the doctors and sorcerers and surgeons in the Low Countries and the neighboring kingdoms thronged to the palace, each with a remedy of his own. But it was all no good, and the