THE BLUE PARROT
courts, and after several conversations on the art of painting, which Lino loved, he led the talk to portraits, and mentioned carelessly that a particularly fine picture had lately been made of his own princess. ' Though, as for a likeness,' he concluded, ' perhaps it is hardly as good as this small miniature, which was painted a year ago.'
The king took it, and looked at it closely.
' Ah! ' he sighed, ' that must be flattered! It cannot be possible that any woman should be such a miracle of beauty.'
' If you could only see her,' answered the ambassador.
The king did not reply, but the ambassador was not at all surprised when, the following morning, he was sent for into the royal presence.
' Since you showed me that picture,' began Lino, almost before the door was shut, ' I have not been able to banish the face of the princess from my thoughts. I have summoned you here to inform you that I am about to send special envoys to the court of the Swan fairy, asking her daughter in marriage.'
'I cannot, as you will understand, speak for my mistress in so important a matter,' replied the ambassador, stroking his beard in order to conceal the satisfaction he felt. ' But I know that she will certainly be highly gratified at your proposal.'
' If that is so,' cried the king, his whole face beaming with joy, ' then, instead of sending envoys, I will go myself, and take you with me. In three days my preparations will be made, and we will set out.'
Unluckily for Lino, he had for his neighbour on the other side a powerful magician named Ismenor, who was king of the Isle of Lions, and the father of a hideous daughter, whom he thought the most beautiful creature that ever existed. Eiquette, for such was her name, had