94 THE COMB AND THE COLLAR
from trembling, for a crocodile's head with snapping jaws advanced towards him. With a mighty effort he managed to remain still, and to gaze steadily at the horrible beast, and as he did so, the head bent backwards, and beneath it was seen the lovely countenance of the Lady of the Shell.
' Quick ! prince ! quick ! the time is flying, comb me at once or I shall vanish from your sight.' At her words he took out the comb, but found to his surprise that it needed all his strength to draw it from its sheath. And, strange to say, that in proportion as the comb emerged from its sheath the lady's head was freed from its horrible covering, and her body rose a little more out of the water. When her shoulders and arms were freed, she called to him:
' Enough, so far you have obeyed my orders. Now burn my skin.'
' Ah, that I can never do,' cried he ; but the lady cut him short.
' Then we shall both rue it for ever,' she said gravely ; ' for I can only be the wife of him who will burn my skin.' And while he still stood hesitating, the curtains of the tent fell back on her, and the tapers fizzled out.
Bitterly repenting his slowness, he wandered towards the forest where a fire was burning, hardly knowing what he did ; but on his way he almost fell over the skin, which was lying across his path.
' Ah, fool that I was ! This must be the skin she wished me to burn,' said he. And seizing it in both hands he flung it into the fire, where it exploded with a terrific noise. At first he rushed off to some distance, not knowing what might next befall, but after a while found that his steps had led him back to the place of the fire. The skin had gone and left no traces, but among the cinders he beheld something shining, which proved to be the magic collar. Ah ! then his sister, for whom he had so greatly longed, must be near at last! And before he