THE GOLDEN-HEADED FISH 185
for twelve hours after. So think, while there is yet time.'
The prince did think, and was so frightened that he very nearly went back to his ship without any more words. But just as he was about to withdraw his proposal the Arab whispered :
' Fear nothing, but take her.'
' The luck must change some time,' he said, at last; ' and who would not risk his head for the hand of such a peerless princess ?'
' As you will,' replied the king. ' Then I will give orders that the marriage shall be celebrated to-night.'
And so it was done ; and after the ceremony the bride and bridegroom retired to their own apartments to sup by themselves, for such was the custom of the country. The moon shone bright, and the prince walked to the window to look out upon the river and upon the distant hills, when his gaze suddenly fell on a silken shroud neatly laid out on a couch, with his name embroidered in gold thread across the front; for this also was the pleasure of the king.
Horrified at the spectacle, he turned his head away, and this time his glance rested on a group of men, digging busily beneath the window. It was a strange hour for anyone to be at work, and what was the hole for? It was a curious shape, so long and narrow,
almost like------ Ah! yes, that was what it was! It
was his grave that they were digging!
The shock of the discovery rendered him speechless, yet he stood fascinated and unable to move. At this moment a small black snake darted from the mouth of the princess, who was seated at the table, and wriggled quickly towards him. But the Arab was watching for something of the sort to happen, and seizing the serpent with some pincers that he held in one hand, he cut off its head with a sharp dagger.
The king could hardly believe his eyes when, early