THE STORY OF ZOULVISIA 225
she took a stick, and on the river bank changed it into a raft, and seating herself comfortably, she pushed off into the centre of the stream.
All that day she floated, and all the next night, and towards sunset the following evening she found herself close to Zoulvisia's garden, just at the moment that the king, on the horse of flame, was returning from hunting.
' Who are you ? ' he asked in surprise ; for old women travelling on rafts were not common in that country. ' Who are you, and why have you come here ?'
' I am a poor pilgrim, my son,' answered she, ' and having missed the caravan, I have wandered foodless for many days through the desert, till at length I reached the river. There I found this tiny raft, and to it I committed myself, not knowing if I should live or die. But since you have found me, give me, I pray you, bread to eat, and let me lie this night by the dog who guards your door!'
This piteous tale touched the heart of the young man, and he promised that he would bring her food, and that she should pass the night in his palace.
' But mount behind me, good woman,' cried he, ' for you have wralked far, and it is still a long way to the palace.' And as he spoke he bent down to help her, but the horse swerved on one side.
And so it happened twice and thrice, and the old W"itch guessed the reason, though the king did not.
' I fear to fall off,' said she ; ' but as your kind heart pities my sorrows, ride slowly, and lame as I am, I think I can manage to keep up.'
At the door he bade the witch to rest herself, and he would fetch her all she needed. But Zoulvisia his wife grew pale when she heard whom he had brought, and besought him to feed the old woman and send her away, as she would cause mischief to befall them.
The king laughed at her fears, and answered lightly :