THE SILENT PRINCESS 319
For some time the boy paid no heed to her wordsó indeed he forgot them altogether; but as years went by, and he began to think more about things, the remembrance of the old woman's wish came back to his mind.
' Who is the silent princess ? And why should it be a punishment to fall in love with her ? ' he asked himself, and received no answer. However, that did not prevent him from putting the question again and again, till at length he grew so weak and ill that he could eat nothing, and in the end was forced to lie in bed altogether. His father the pasha became so frightened by this strange disease, that he sent for every physician in the kingdom to cure him, but no one was able to find a remedy.
' How did your illness first begin, my son ?' asked the pasha one day. ' Perhaps, if we knew that, we should also know better what to do for you.'
Then the youth told him what had happened all those years before, when he was a little boy, and what the old woman had said to him.
' Give me, I pray you,' he cried, when his tale was finished, ' give me, I pray you, leave to go into the world in search of the princess, and perhaps this evil state may cease.' And, sore though his heart was to part from his only son, the pasha felt that the young man would certainly die if he remained at home any longer.
' Go, and peace be with you,' he answered; and went out to call his trusted steward, whom he ordered to accompany his young master.
Their preparations were soon made, and early one morning the two set out. But neither old man nor young had the slightest idea of where they were going, or what they were undertaking. First they lost their way in a dense forest, and from that they at length emerged in a wilderness where they wandered for six months, not seeing a living creature and finding scarcely anything to eat or drink, till they became nothing but skin and bone, while their garments hung in tatters