THE FROG AND THE LION FAIRY 263
and the princess as they listened to this dreadful doom. They rushed instantly to the hall, where the giant was awaiting them, and flinging themselves at his feet implored him to take the kingdom if he would, but to have pity on the princess. The giant looked at them kindly, for he was not at all hard-hearted, but said that he had no power to do anything, and that if the princess did not go with him quietly the dragon would come himself.
Several days went by, and the king and queen hardly ceased from entreating the aid of the giant, who by this time was getting weary of waiting.
'There is only one way of helping you,' he said at last, 'and that is to marry the princess to my nephew, who, besides being young and handsome, has been trained in magic, and will know how to keep her safe from the dragon.'
'Oh, thank you, thank you!' cried the parents, clasping his great hands to their breasts. 'You have indeed lifted a load from us. She shall have half the kingdom for her dowry.' But Muffette stood up and thrust them aside.
' I will not buy my life with faithlessness,' she said proudly; 'and I will go with you this moment to the dragon's abode.' And all her father's and mother's tears and prayers availed nothing to move her.
The next morning Muffette was put into a litter, and, guarded by the giant and followed by the king and queen and the weeping maids of honour, they started for the foot of the mountain where the dragon had his castle. The way, though rough and stony, seemed all too short, and when they reached the spot appointed by the dragon the giant ordered the men who bore the litter to stand still.
'It is time for you to bid farewell to your daughter,' said he; 'for I see the dragon coming to us.'
It was true; a cloud appeared to pass over the sun, for