THE UNLOOKED-FOR PRINCE 307
commanded his guards to ride after the fugitives. If the guards returned without the fugitives, their heads should pay for it.
By this time the prince and princess had got a good start, and were feeling quite happy, when suddenly they heard the sound of a gallop far behind them. The prince sprang from the saddle, and laid his ear to the ground.
' They are pursuing us,' he said.
' Then there is no time to be lost,' answered the princess ; and as she spoke she changed herself into a river, the prince into a bridge, the horse into a crow, and divided the wide road beyond the bridge into three little ones. When the soldiers came up to the bridge, they paused uncertainly. How were they to know which of the three roads the fugitives had taken? They gave it up in despair and returned in trembling to Kostie'i.
' Idiots !' he exclaimed, in a passion. ' They were the bridge and the river, of course! Do you mean to say you never thought of that? Go back at once!' and off they galloped like lightning.
But time had been lost, and the prince and princess were far on their way.
' I hear a horse,' cried the princess.
The prince jumped down and laid his ear to the ground.
' Yes,' he said, ' they are not far off now.'
In an instant prince, princess, and horse had all disappeared, and instead was a dense forest, crossed and recrossed by countless paths. Kostiei's soldiers dashed hastily into the forest, believing they saw before them the flying horse with its double burden. They seemed close upon them, when suddenly horse, wood, everything disappeared, and they found themselves at the place where they started. There was nothing for it but to return to Kostiei, and tell him of this fresh disaster.
' A horse ! a horse!' cried the king. «I will go after