THE FROG AND THE LION FAIRY 261
obtaining his heart's desire. He had suffered every hardship that could be imagined — nettles had been his bed, wild fruits more bitter than gall his food, while his days had been spent in fighting the hideous monsters which kept him from the palace. He had not advanced one single step, nor gained one solitary advantage. Now he was almost in despair, and ready to defy everything and throw himself into the lake.
It was at this moment of his blackest misery that, one night, a dragon who had long watched him from the roof crept to his side.
'You thought that love would conquer all obstacles,' said he; 'well, you have found it hasn't! But if you will swear to me by your crown and sceptre that you will give me a dinner of the food that I never grow tired of, whenever I choose to ask for it, I will enable you to reach your wife and daughter.'
Ah, how glad the king was to hear that! What oath would he not have taken so as to clasp his wife and child in his arms? Joyfully he swore whatever the dragon asked of him; then he jumped on his back, and in another instant would have been carried by the strong wings into the castle if the nearest monster had not happened to awake and hear the noise of talking and swum to the shore to give battle. The fight was long and hard, and when the king at last beat back his foes another struggle awaited him. At the entrance gigantic bats, owls, and crows set upon him from all sides; but the dragon had teeth and claws, while the queen broke off sharp bits of glass and stabbed and cut in her anxiety to help her husband. At length the horrible creatures flew away; a sound like thunder was heard, the palace and the monsters vanished, while, at the same moment — no one knew how — the king found himself standing with his wife and daughter in the hall of his own home.
The dragon had disappeared with all the rest, and for some years no more was heard or thought of him.