THE HERMIT AND KING'S DAUGHTER 179
whispered, ' Good father, before we were five, and now we are six.'
Off they went again, and before they had gone far they met a man striding towards them whose steps were so long that while one foot was on the north of the island the other was right down in the south.
' Good father, look at him ! What long steps he takes!'
' Ask him why he does it,' replied the hermit.
' Oh, I am only going out for a little walk,' answered he.
' Ask him if he will come with us.'
' Gladly, if you will give me as much as I want to eat and drink,' said he, climbing up into the ship.
And the young man whispered, ' Good father, before we were six, and now we are seven.' But the hermit knew what he was about, and why he gathered these strange people into the ship.
After many days, at last they reached the town where lived the king and his daughter. They stopped the vessel right in front of the palace, and the young man went in and bowed low before the king.
' O Majesty, I have done your bidding, and now is the ship built that can travel over land and sea. Give me my reward, and let me have your daughter to wife.'
But the king said to himself, ' What! ami to wed my daughter to a man of whom I know nothing? Not even whether he be rich or poor — a knight or a beggar.'
And aloud he spake: 'It is not enough that you have managed to build the ship. You must find a runner who shall take this letter to the ruler of the Underworld, and bring me the answer back in an hour.'
' That is not in the bond,' answered the young man.
'Well, do as you like,' replied the king, 'only you will not set mv daughter.'
The young man went out, sorety troubled, to tell his old friend what had happened.
' Silly boy!' cried the hermit. ' Accept his terms at