232 THE STORY OF ZOULVISIA
side a cup of poison, and declares that she will swallow it rather than become his wife. Yet he is a handsome man too, and a proper husband for herómore than she could have looked for, having come no one knows whither, and bought from a witch-----'
The king started. Had he found her after all ? His heart beat violently, as if it would choke him; but he gasped out:
' Is her name Zoulvisia ? '
' Ay, so she says, though the old witch----- But what
ails you ?' she broke off, as the young man sprang to his feet and seized her wrists.
' Listen to me,' he said. ' Can you keep a secret ?'
' Ay,' answered the old woman again, ' if I am paid for it.'
' Oh, you shall be paid, never fearóas much as your heart can desire ! Here is a handful of gold: you shall have as much again if you will do my bidding.' The old crone nodded her head.
' Then go and buy a dress such as ladies wear at court, and manage to get admitted into the palace, and into the presence of Zoulvisia. When there, show her this ring, and after that she will tell you what to do.'
So the old woman set off, and clothed herself in a garment of yellow silk, and wrapped a veil closely round her head. In this dress she walked boldly up the palace steps behind some merchants whom the king had sent for to bring presents for Zoulvisia.
At first the bride would have nothing to say to any of them ; but on perceiving the ring, she suddenly grew as meek as a lamb. And thanking the merchants for their trouble, she sent them away, and remained alone with her visitor.
' Grandmother,' asked Zoulvisia, as soon as the door was safely shut, ' where is the owner of this ring ?'
' In my cottage,' answered the old woman, ' waiting for orders from you.'