58 THE BLACK THIEF AND KNIGHT OF THE GLEN
the highest tower of the palace until we come back (or find out that we are certainly dead), with nothing but sheaf corn for her food and cold water for her drink, if it should be for seven years and longer.'
All things being now fixed, the three princes departed the Court in search of the Knight of the Glen's palace, and travelling along the road they came up with a man who was a little lame, and seemed to be somewhat advanced in years; they soon fell into discourse, and the youngest of the princes asked the stranger his name, or what was the reason he wore so remarkable a black cap as he saw on him.
'1 am called,' said he, ' the Thief of Sloan, and sometimes the Black Thief from my cap ; ' and so telling the prince the most of his adventures, he asked him again where they were bound for, or what they were about.
The prince, willing to gratify his request, told him their affairs from the beginning to the end. ' And now,' said he,' we are travelling, and do not know whether we are on the right road or not.'
' Ah ! my brave fellows,' says the Black Thief, ' you little know the danger you run. I am after that steed myself these seven years, and can never steal him on account of a silk covering he has on him in the stable, with sixty bells fixed to it, and whenever you approach the place he quickly observes it and shakes himself; which, by the sound of the bells, not only alarms the prince and his guards, but the whole country round, so that it is impossible ever to get him, and those that are so unfortunate as to be taken by the Knight of the Glen are boiled in a red-hot fiery furnace.'
' Bless me,' says the young prince, ' what will we do ? If we return without the steed we will lose our heads, so I see we are ill fixed on both sides.'
' Well,' says the Thief of Sloan, ' if it were my case I would rather die by the Knight than by the wicked Queen; besides, I will go with you myself and show you the road, and whatever fortune you will have, I will take chance of the same.'
They returned him sincere thanks for his kindness, and he, being well acquainted with the road, in a short time brought them within view of the knight's castle.
' Now,' says he,' we must stay here till night comes; for I know all the ways of the place, and if there be any chance for it, it is when they are all at rest; for the steed is all the watch the knight keeps there.'
Accordingly, in the dead hour of the night, the King's three sons