64 A LOST PARADISE
was laid, and this pleased them better than anything else.
They were just about to sit down to the table when the king walked in.
' I hope you have been attended to properly,' said he, ' and that you will enjoy your dinner. My steward will take care you have all you want, and I wish you to do exactly as you please. Oh, by the bye, there is one thing! You notice that soup-tureen in the middle of the table ? Well, be careful on no account to lift the lid. If once you take off the cover, there is an end of your good fortune.' Then, bowing to his guests, he left the room.
' Did you hear what he said ? ' inquired the charcoal-burner in an awe-stricken voice. ' We are to have what we want, and do what we please. Only we must not touch the soup-tureen.'
' No, of course we won't,' answered the wife. ' Why should we wish to ? But all the same it is rather odd, and one can't help wondering what is inside.'
For many days life went on like a beautiful dream to the charcoal-burner and his wife. Their beds were so comfortable, they could hardly make up their minds to get up, their clothes were so lovely they could scarcely bring themselves to take them off ; their dinners were so good that they found it very difficult to leave off eating. Then outside the palace were gardens filled with rare flowers and fruits and singing birds, or if they desired to go further, a golden coach, painted with wreaths of forget-me-nots and lined with blue satin, awaited their orders. Sometimes it happened that the king came to see them, and he smiled as he glanced at the man, who was getting rosier and plumper each day. But when his eyes rested on the woman, they took on a look which seemed to say ' I knew it,' though this neither the charcoal-burner nor his wife ever noticed.