262 THE FROG AND THE LION FAIRY
Muffette grew every day more beautiful, and when she was fourteen the kings and emperors of the neighbouring countries sent to ask her in marriage for themselves or their sons. For a long time the girl turned a deaf ear to all their prayers; but at length a young prince of rare gifts touched her heart, and though the king had left her free to choose what husband she would, he had secretly hoped that out of all the wooers this one might be his son-in-law. So they were betrothed that same day with great pomp, and then, with many tears, the prince set out for his father's court, bearing with him a portrait of Muffette.
The days passed slowly to Muffette, in spite of her brave efforts to occupy herself and not to sadden other people by her complaints. One morning she was playing on her harp in the queen's chamber when the king burst into the room and clasped his daughter in his arms with an energy that almost frightened her.
'Oh, my child! my dear child! why were you ever born?' cried he, as soon as he could speak.
'Is the prince dead?' faltered Muffette, growing white and cold.
'No, no; but — oh, how can I tell you!' And he sank down on a pile of cushions while his wife and daughter knelt beside him.
At length he was able to tell his tale, and a terrible one it was! There had just arrived at court a huge giant, as ambassador from the dragon by whose help the king had rescued the queen and Muffette from the crystal palace. The dragon had been very busy for many years past, and had quite forgotten the princess till the news of her betrothal had reached his ears. Then he remembered the bargain he had made with her father; and the more he heard of Muffette the more he felt sure she would make a delicious dish. So he had ordered the giant who was his servant to fetch her at once.
No words would paint the horror of both the queen