THE KING'S BEAUTIFUL WIFE 163
1 Go back at once,' said his majesty, ' and try to get a sight of her.'
The faithful servant departed on his errand without losing any time, and again he knocked at the door of the little house and begged for some water. As before, the old woman did not open the door, but passed the water through the lattice.
' Do you live here alone? ' asked the man.
' No,' replied she, ' my sister lives with me. We are poor girls, and have to work for our bread.'
' How old are you ? '
' I am fifteen, and she is twenty.'
Then the servant went back to the king, and told him all he knew. And his majesty answered: ' I will have the fifteen-year-old one. Go and bring her here.'
The servant returned a third time to the little house, and knocked at the door. In reply to his knock the lattice window was pushed open, and a voice inquired what it was he wanted.
' The king has desired me to bring back the youngest of you to become his queen,' he replied.
' Tell his majesty I am ready to do his bidding, but since my birth no ray of light has fallen upon my face. If it should ever do so I shall instantly grow black. Therefore beg, I pray you, his most gracious majesty to send this evening a shut carriage, and I will return in it to the castle.'
When the king heard this he ordered his great golden'carriage to be prepared, and in it to be placed some magnificent robes; and the old woman wrapped herself in a thick veil, and was driven to the castle.
The king was eagerly awaiting her, and when she arrived he begged her politely to raise her veil and let him see her face.
But she answered: ' Here the tapers are too bright and the light too strong. Would you have me turn black under your very eyes?'