288 PRINCESS MINON-MINETTE
nowhere to be found. ' If she is not on the earth,' said Souci to himself, ' perhaps she is hiding somewhere in the air. It is there that I shall find her.' So, by the help of his thread, he tried to mount upwards, but he could go such a little way, and hurt himself dreadfully when he tumbled back to earth again. Still he did not give up, and after many days of efforts and tumbles he found to his great joy that he could go a little higher and stay up a little longer than he had done at first, and by-and-bye he was able to live in the air altogether. But alas! the world of the air seemed as empty of her as the world below, and Souci was beginning to despair, and to think that he must go and search the world that lay in the sea. He was floating sadly along, not paying any heed to where he was going, when he saw in the distance a beautiful, bright sort of bird coming towards him. His heart beat fast — he did not know why — and as they both drew near the voice of the princess exclaimed, ' Behold the bird without feathers and the bridge without an arch !'
So their first meeting took place in the air, but it was none the less happy for that; and the fan grew big enough to hold the king as well as Aveline, who had hastened to give them some good advice. She guided the fan above the spot where the two armies lay encamped before each other ready to give battle. The fight was long and bloody, but in the end the Iron King was obliged to give way and surrender to the princess, who set him to keep King Souci's sheep, first making him swear a solemn oath that he would treat them kindly.
Then the marriage took place, in the presence of (iirouette, whom they had the greatest trouble to find, and who was much astonished to discover how much business had been got through in her absence.