108 THE STORY OF BENSURDATU
answered Bensurdatu, ' we are bound to carry the king's daughters back to the palace! '
' Oh, unhappy creatures,' cried she, ' you know not what you are doing! The king's daughters were covered by a thick cloud, and no one knows where they may now be.'
'Oh, tell us, if you know, my good woman,' entreated Bensurdatu, ' for with them lies all our happiness.'
' Even if I were to tell you,' answered she, ' you could not rescue them. To do that you would have to go to the very bottom of a deep river, and though certainly you would find the king's daughters there, yet the two eldest are guarded by two giants, and the youngest is watched by a serpent with seven heads.'
The two generals, who stood by listening, were filled with terror at her words, and wished to return immediately; but Bensurdatu stood firm, and said: 'Now we have got so far we must carry the thing through. Tell us where the river is, so that we may get there as soon as possible.' And the old woman told them, and gave them some cheese, wine, and bread, so that they should not set forth starving; and when they had eaten and drunk they laid themselves down to sleep.
The sun had only just risen above the hills next morning before they all woke, and, taking leave of the wise woman who had helped them, they rode on till they came to the river.
41 am the eldest,' said one of the generals, ' and it is my right to go down first.'
So the others fastened a cord round him, and gave him a little bell, and let him down into the water. But scarcely had the river closed above his head when such dreadful rushing sounds and peals of thunder came crashing round about him that he lost all his courage, and rang his bell, if perchance it might be heard amidst all this clamour. Great was his relief when the rope began slowly to pull him upwards.