THE COMB AND THE COLLAR 99
on the island, he was always with us, and charmed us all. Yesterday we missed him, but in the evening a little boat drifted up on the sands, and in it lay the fox, covered with blood. While his wounds were being tended in the palace with all the care imaginable, I set out to consult a wizard, who told me that I must enter the skiff and seek for the prince and princess of Lom-bardy, and that if, in twenty-four hours, I could bring them into the presence of the fox, his life would be saved. On a rock along the beach I found your father with an arrow through his shoulder, from the bow of his cousin the mad archduke, who was drawing another from his quiver, destined for me, when I fled into the forest!'
' My father so near !' cried the prince. ' We must return and seek him, and also look for my sister.'
They found her in the grotto, with her father's head in her lap, trying vainly to staunch his wounds. Between them they contrived to carry him to the boat, which sailed swiftly towards the island. On the way the prince gently broke to his sister the sad state of the white fox.
' Take me to him!' she said, as soon as the boat touched the island; and in silence the queen went down the path to the palace.
The white fox was lying on a soft mattress in front of a fire, his eyes closed, and a look on his face which told that death was not far distant. But he knew, somehow, that the princess was near him, and opened his eyes and wagged his tail feebly. The princess burst into sobs and tears, till a hand on her shoulder checked her.
' Why do you waste the few moments that are left you in this manner ? ' asked the governor of the island sternly. ' Place the collar you wrear round his neck, and he will be cured at once. But you must act quickly.'
The princess seemed turned to stone as she listened.