THE CLEVER CAT
and the hall was empty, and then went up and knelt before the throne.
' My son has sent me to ask for the hand of the princess,' said she.
The king looked at her and thought that she was mad; but, instead of ordering his guards to turn her out, he answered gravely:
'Before he can marry the princess he must build me a palace of ice, which can be warmed with fires, and wherein the rarest singing-birds can live!'
'It shall be done, your Majesty,' said she, and got up and left the hall.
Her son was anxiously awaiting her outside the palace gates, dressed in the clothes that he wore every day.
'Well, what have I got to do?' he asked impatiently, drawing his mother aside so that no one could overhear them.
'Oh, something quite impossible; and I hope you will put the princess out of your head,' she replied.
'Well, but what is it?' persisted he.
'Nothing but to build a palace of ice wherein fires can burn that shall keep it so warm that the most delicate singing-birds can live in it!'
'I thought it would be something much harder than that,' exclaimed the young man. 'I will see about it at once.' And leaving his mother, he went into the country and took the stone from his turban.
'I want a palace of ice that can be warmed with fires and filled with the rarest singing-birds!'
'Shut your eyes, then,' said the stone; and he shut them, and when he opened them again there was the palace, more beautiful than anything he could have imagined, the fires throwing a soft pink glow over the ice.
'It is fit even for the princess,' thought he to himself.