250 THE SNAKE PRINCE
and agreements, and wagging of wise heads, and stroking of grey beards, the compact was made, and signed, and sealed, and lay waiting for its fulfilment. And this too came to pass; for, as soon as the prince and princess were eighteen years of age, the kings agreed that it was time for the wedding ; and the young prince journeyed away to the neighbouring kingdom for his bride, and was there married to her with great and renewed rejoicings.
Now, I must tell you that the old woman who had sold the king the necklace had been called in by him to be the nurse of the young prince ; and although she loved her charge dearly, and was a most faithful servant, she could not help talking just a little, and so, by-and-by, it began to be rumoured that there was some magic about the young prince's birth ; and the rumour of course had come in clue time to the ears of the parents of the princess. So now that she was going to be the wife of the prince, her mother (who was curious, as many other people are) said to her daughter on the eve of the ceremony:
' Eemember that the first thing you must do is to find out what this story is about the prince. And, in order to do it, you must not speak a word to him whatever he says until he asks you why you are silent; then you must ask him what the truth is about his magic birth ; and until he tells you, you must not speak to him again.'
And the princess promised that she would follow her mother's advice.
Therefore when they were married, and the prince spoke to his bride, she did not answer him. He could not think what was the matter, but even about her old home she would not utter a word. At last he asked why she would not speak; and then she said :
' Tell me the secret of your birth.'
Then the prince was very sad and displeased, and