320 THE SILENT PRINCESS
about them. They had forgotten all about the princess, and their only wish was to find themselves back in the palace again, when, one day, they discovered that they' were standing on the shoulder of a mountain. The stones beneath them shone as brightly as diamonds, and both their hearts beat with joy at beholding a tiny old man approaching them. The sight awoke all manner of recollections; the numb feeling that had taken possession of them fell away as if by magic, and it was with glad voices that they greeted the new-comer. ' Where are we, my friend ? ' asked they ; and the old man told them that this was the mountain where the sultan's daughter sat, covered by seven veils, and the shining of the stones was only the reflection of her own brilliance.
On hearing this news all the dangers and difficulties of their past wandering vanished from their minds.
' How can I reach her soonest ?' asked the youth eagerly. But the old man only answered :
' Have patience, my son, yet awhile. Another six months must go by before you arrive at the palace where she dwells with the rest of the women. And, even so, think well, when you can, as should you fail to make her speak, you will have to pay forfeit with your life, as others have done. So beware !'
But the prince only laughed at this counsel—as others had also done.
After three months they found themselves on the top of another mountain, and the prince saw with surprise that its sides were coloured a beautiful red. Perched on some cliffs, not far off, was a small village, and the prince proposed to his friend that they should go and rest there. The villagers, on their part, welcomed them gladly, and gave them food to eat and beds to sleep on, and thankful indeed were the two travellers to repose their weary limbs.
The next morning they asked their host if he could