260 PRINCE AND PRINCESS IN THE FOREST
thought she would like to see what was in the other rooms; so she went from one to another, and presently came to one that was very prettily furnished, with lovely pictures on the walls, and pale blue curtains and soft yellow cushions and comfortable easy chairs. As she was looking at all these things, suddenly a trap-door opened in the floor, and the robber-chief came out of the hole and seized her ankles. The queen almost died of fright, and shrieked loudly, then fell on her knees and begged him to spare her life.
' Yes, if you will promise me two things,' he replied; ' first that you will take me home to your country and let me be crowned king instead of your son; and secondly, that you will kill him in case he should try to take the throne from me—if you will not agree to this I shall kill you.'
' Kill my own son !' gasped the queen, staring at him in horror.
' You need not do that exactly,' said the robber. ' When he returns, just lie on the bed and say that you have been taken ill, and add that you have dreamed that in a forest, a mile away, there are some beautiful apples. If you could only get some of these you would be well again, but if not you will die.'
The queen shuddered as she listened. She was fond of her son, but she was a terrible coward; and so in the end she agreed, hoping that something would occur to save the prince. She had hardly given her promise when a step was heard, and the robber hastily hid himself.
' Well, mother,' cried the prince as he entered, ' I have been through the forest and found the road, so we will start directly we have had some breakfast.'
' Oh, I feel so ill!' said the queen. ' I could not walk a single step; and there is only one thing that will cure me.'
' What is that ? ' asked the prince.
' I dreamed,' answered the queen, in a faint voice,