THE STORY OF LITTLE KING LOC 55
And in her turn Abeille promised.
After this, in spite of the fact that everyone was just as kind to her as before, Abeille was no longer the merry child who passed all her days playing with the little gnomes. People who dwell under the earth grow up much faster than those who live on its surface, and, at thirteen, the girl was already a woman. Besides, King Loc's words had set her thinking; she spent many hours by herself, and her face was no longer round and rosy, but thin and pale. It was in vain that the gnomes did their best to entice her into her old games, they had lost their interest, and even her lute lay unnoticed on the ground.
But one morning a change seemed to come over her. Leaving the room hung with beautiful silks, where she usually sat alone, she entered the king's presence, and taking his hand she led him through long corridors till they came to a place where a strip of blue sky was to be seen.
' Little King Loc,' she said, turning her eyes upon him, ' let me behold my mother again, or I shall surely die.' Her voice shook, and her whole body trembled. Even an enemy might have pitied her ; but the king, who loved her, answered nothing. All day long Abeille stayed there, watching the light fade, and the sky grow pale. By-and-by the stars came out, but the girl never moved from her place. Suddenly a hand touched her. She looked round with a start, and there was King Loc, covered from head to foot in a dark mantle, holding another over his arm. ' Put on this and follow me,' was all he said. But Abeille somehow knew that she was going to see her mother.
On, and on, and on they went, through passages where Abeille had never been before, and at length she was out in the world again. Oh ! how beautiful it all was ! How fresh was the air, and how sweet was the smell of the flowers! She felt as if she should die with joy ; but at