226 THE STORY OF ZOULVISIA
' Why, one would think she was a witch to hear you talk! And even if she were, what harm could she do to us ?' And calling to the maidens he bade them carry her food, and to let her sleep in their chamber.
Now the old woman was very cunning, and kept the maidens awake half the night with all kinds of strange stories. Indeed, the next morning, while they were dressing their mistress, one of them suddenly broke into a laugh, in which the others joined her.
' What is the matter writh you ? ' asked Zoulvisia. And the maid answered that she was thinking of a droll adventure told them the evening before by the newcomer.
' And, oh, madam ! ' cried the girl, ' it may be that she is a witch, as they say; but I am sure she never would work a spell to harm a fly! And as for her tales, they would pass many a dull hour for you, when my lord was absent!'
So, in an evil hour, Zoulvisia consented that the crone should be brought to her, and from that moment the two were hardly ever apart.
One day the witch began to talk about the young king, and to declare that in all the lands she had visited she had seen none like him.
' It was so clever of him to guess your secret so as to win your heart,' said she. ' And of course he told you his, in return ? '
' No, I don't think he has got any,' returned Zoulvisia.
' Not got any secrets ?' cried the old woman scornfully. ' That is nonsense! Every man has a secret, which he always tells to the woman he loves. And if he has not told it to you, it is that he does not love you!'
These words troubled Zoulvisia mightily, though she would not confess it to the witch. But the next time