PRINCE AND PRINCESS IN THE FOREST 265
' Not they! ' said the prince, brandishing his sword. ' But how long have you been here ?' he added quickly.
' About twenty years, I think,' said the princess, reckoning with her fingers.
' Twenty years i' exclaimed the prince. ' Then you had better shut your eyes, for when you have been sitting there so long it might hurt you to go too suddenly into the daylight. So you are the Princess of Arabia, whose beauty is famous throughout all the world! I, too, am a prince.'
' Will you not come back to Arabia and marry me, now you have saved my life ?' asked the princess. ' Even if my father is living still, he must be old, and after his death you can be king.'
' No,' replied the prince, ' I cannot do that—I must live and die in my own country. But at the end of a year I will follow you and marry you.' And that was all he would say.
Then the princess took a heavy ring from her finger and put it on his. Her father's and her mother's names were engraved in it, as well as her own, and she asked him to keep it as a reminder of his promise.
' I will die before I part from it,' said the prince. ' And if at the end of a year I am still living, I will come. I believe I have heard that at the other side of this forest there is a port from which ships sail to Arabia. Let us hasten there at once.'
Hand in hand they set off through the forest, and when they came to the port they found a ship just ready to sail. The princess said good-bye to the prince, and went on board the vessel, and when she reached her own country there were great rejoicings, for her parents had never expected to see her again. She told them how a prince had saved her from the robbers, and was coming in a year's time to marry her, and they were greatly pleased.
' All the same,' said the king, ' I wish he were here now. A year is a long time.'