THE STORY OF ZOULVISIA 231
Swimming back with the sabre to land, they carefully dried it in their coats, and then carried it to the palace and placed it on the king's pillow. In an instant colour came back to the waxen face, and the hollow cheeks filled out. The king sat up, and opening his eyes he said:
' Where is Zoulvisia ? '
' That is what we do not know,' answered the little men ; ' but now that you are saved you will soon find out.' And they told him what had happened since Zoulvisia had betrayed his secret to the witch.
' Let me go to my horse,' was all he said. But when he entered the stable he could have wept at the sight of his favourite steed, which was nearly in as sad a plight as his master had been. Languidly he turned his head as the door swung back on its hinges, but when he beheld the king he rose up, and rubbed his head against him.
' Oh, my poor horse ! How much cleverer were you than I ! If I had acted like you I should never have lost Zoulvisia; but we will seek her together, you and I.'
For a long while the king and his horse followed the course of the stream, but nowhere could he learn anything of Zoulvisia. At length, one evening, they both stopped to rest by a cottage not far from a great city, and as the king was lying outstretched on the grass, lazily watching his horse cropping the short turf, an old woman came out with a wooden bowl of fresh milk, which she offered him.
He drank it eagerly, for he was very thirsty, and then laying down the bowl, began to talk to the woman, who was delighted to have someone to listen to her conversation.
' You are in luck to have passed this way just now,' said she, ' for in five days the king holds his wedding banquet. Ah! but the bride is unwilling, for all her blue eyes and her golden hair ! And she keeps by her