LONG, BROAD, AND QUICKEYE 373
' You are a wonderful creature,' said the prince, ' and I should be a fool not to take you into my service. But sine your eyes are so good, tell me if I am very far from the Iron Castle, and what is happening there just now.'
' If you were travelling alone,' replied Quickeye, ' it would take you at least a year to get to it; but as we are with you, we shall arrive there to-night. Just now they are preparing supper.'
' There is a princess in the castle. Do you see her? '
' A wizard keeps her in a high tower, guarded by iron bars.'
' Ah, help me to deliver her!' cried the prince.
And they promised they would.
Then they all set out through the grey rocks, by the broach made by the eyes of Quickeye, and passed over great mountains and through deep woods. And every time they met with any obstacle the three friends contrived somehow to put it aside. As the sun was setting, the prince beheld the towers of the Iron Castle, and before it sank beneath the horizon he was crossing the iron bridge which led to the gates. He was only just in time, for no sooner had the sun disappeared altogether, than the bridge drew itself up and the gates shut themselves.
There was no turning back now!
The prince put up his horse in the stable, where everything looked as if a guest was expected, and then the whole party marched straight up to the castle. In the court, in the stables, and all over the great halls, they saw a number of men richly dressed, but every one turned into stone. They crossed an endless set of rooms, all opening into each other, till they reached the dining-hall. It was brilliantly lighted; the table was covered with wine and fruit, and was laid for four. They waited a few minutes expecting some one to come, but as nobody did, they sat down and began to eat and drink, for they were very hungry.