212 THE BILLY GOAT AND THE KING
But the owner of the grain of rice only replied:
' If you want rice go and get it. No one will notice your dirty boots ; and you don't suppose that I am going to carry rice for all our kindred ?'
Then the king laughed.
The queen looked at herself up and down, but she could not see or feel anything in her appearance to make the king laugh, so she said :
' What are you laughing at ? '
' Did I laugh ? ' replied the king.
' Of course you did,' retorted the queen ; ' and if you think that I am ridiculous I wish you would say so, instead of behaving in that stupid way ! What are you laughing at ?'
' I'm not laughing at anything,' answered the king.
' Very well, but you did laugh, andl want to know why.'
' Well, I'm afraid I can't tell you,' said the king.
' You must tell me,' replied the queen impatiently. ' If you laugh when there's nothing to laugh at you must be ill or mad. What is the matter ?'
Still the king refused to say, and still the queen declared that she must and would know. For days the quarrel went on, and the queen gave her husband no rest, until at last the poor man was almost out of his wits, and thought that, as life had become for him hardly worth living while this went on, he might as well tell her the secret and take the consequences.
' But,' thought he, ' if I am to become a stone, I am not going to lie, if I can help it, on some dusty highway, to be kicked here and there by man and beast, flung at dogs, be used as the plaything of naughty children, and become generally restless and miserable. I will be a stone at the bottom of the cool river, and roll gently about there until I find some secure resting-place where I can stay for ever.'
So he told his wife that if she would ride with him to the middle of the river he would tell her what he had