THE COMB AND THE COLLAR 97
could turn his head or pick up the collar, her arms were round his neck, and everything else was forgotten.
' You shall tell your story first,' she said, when at length they could speak. And so he did ; but his head was so full of the Lady of the Shell that he forgot to say anything about the fox. And it was well that he had forgotten, for when the princess had poured forth her own adventures, she ended up by speaking of all she owed to the little white fox.
' You cannot even guess the care he took of me in the little palace. But though nothing could exceed his kindness, I saw by his eyes that there was something he wanted me to give him, but I could not tell what. Alas ! the day came that I learnt it to my cost. I had hidden the collar in a thick bush, lest the fox should catch sight of it and be scared away as the other animals had been. But, one day, when we were in the garden, the sun happened to shine straight on it, and he sprang towards it with every sign of delight. He was about to seize it between his teeth when it closed with a loud noise. The fox fled away with a piercing scream, and though I have sought him far and wide, I have never seen him since. I was here when you flung the skin into the cinders, and no doubt, in my hurry to escape, the collar must have dropped from me. Ah, dear brother,' she continued with tears in her eyes, ' I can no longer live without my beloved fox ; help me, I entreat you, to find him.'
So great was her grief that the prince dared not tell her what sad fate had overtaken the poor little animal, and trusted that time might soothe her. He assured her that he would go with her wherever she desired if she would grant him this one day to spend on the seashore ; and with this the princess was forced to be content.
The prince was standing on the rock, looking out towards the lovely island, and straining his eyes to see the white sail once more, when frightful shrieks from the wood a little way off caused him to hasten with all his speed