THE BLUE PARROT
Meantime Eabot had come up with the others, who never guessed for a moment that he was not their own master.
' I am hungry,' said he, ' give me something to eat at
' May it please your majesty,' answered the steward, ' the tents are not even set up, and it will be at least an hour before your supper is served ! We thought------'
' Who taught you to think ?' interrupted the false king rudely. ' You are nothing but a fool! Get me some horse's flesh directly—it is the best meat in the world ! '
The steward could hardly believe his ears. King Lino, the most polite man under the sun, to speak to his faithful servant in such a manner! And to want horse's flesh too! Why, he was so delicate in his appetite that he lived mostly on fruit and cakes. Well, well, there was no knowing what people would come to ; and, anyhow, he must obey at once, if he wished to keep his head on his shoulders. Perhaps, after all, it was love which had driven him mad, and, if so, by-and-by he might come right again.
Whatever excuses his old servants might invent for their master, by the time the procession reached the Swan fairy's capital there were no more horses left, and they were forced to walk up to the palace on foot. Hiding their surprise as best they could, they begged the king to follow them, dismounting from their own horses, as he, they supposed, preferred to walk. They soon perceived the Swan fairy and her daughter awaiting them on a low balcony, under which the king stopped.
' Madam,' he said, ' you may be surprised that I have come to ask your daughter's hand in so unceremonious a fashion; but the journey is long, and I was hungry and ate my horse, which is the best meat in the world; and I forced my courtiers to eat theirs also. But for all that I am a great king, and wish to be your son-in-law. And now that is settled, where is Hermosa ? '