THE PRINCESS BELLA-FLOR 283
I Oh, sire! the Princess Bella-Flor------' answered the
man, and then stopped as if afraid.
'What of the Princess Bella-Flor?' asked the king impatiently.
II have heard — it is whispered at court — that your majesty desires to know where she lies in hiding.'
'I would give half my kingdom to the man who will bring her to me,' cried the king, eagerly. 'Speak on, knave; has a bird of the air revealed to you the secret ?'
' It is not I, but my brother, who knows,' replied the
traitor; 'if your majesty would ask him------' But before
the words were out of his mouth the king had struck a blow with his sceptre on a golden plate that hung on the wall.
'Order Jose to appear before me instantly,' he shouted to the servant who ran to obey his orders, so great was the noise his majesty had made; and when Jose entered the hall, wondering what in the world could be the matter, the king was nearly dumb with rage and excitement.
'Bring me the Princess Bella-Flor this moment,' stammered he, 'for if you return without her I will have you drowned!' And without another word he left the hall, leaving Jose staring with surprise and horror.
'How can I find the Princess Bella-Flor when I have never even seen her?' thought he. 'But it is no use staying here, for I shall only be put to death.' And he walked slowly to the stables to choose himself a horse.
There were rows upon rows of fine beasts with their names written in gold above their stalls, and Jose was looking uncertainly from one to the other, wondering which he should choose, when an old white horse turned its head and signed to him to approach.
'Take me,' it said in a gentle whisper, 'and all will go well.'