THREE PRINCES AND THEIR BEASTS 45
' Ah,' replied they, ' to-day our king's daughter is to die. She is to be handed over to a dreadful nine-headed dragon.'
Then the prince said : l Why should she die ? I am very strong, I will save her.'
And he set out to the sea-shore, where the dragon was to meet the princess. And as he waited with his beasts round him a great procession came along, accompanying the unfortunate princess : and when the shore was reached all the people left her, and returned sadly to their houses. But the prince remained, and soon he saw a movement in the water a long way off. As it came nearer, he knew what it was, for skimming swiftly along the waters came a monster dragon with nine heads. Then the prince took counsel with his beasts, and as the dragon approached the shore the fox drew his brush through the water and blinded the dragon by scattering the salt water in his eyes, while the bear and the lion threw up more water with their paws, so that the monster was bewildered and could see nothing. Then the prince rushed forward with his sword and killed the dragon, and the beasts tore the body in pieces.
Then the princess turned to the prince and thanked him for delivering her from the dragon, and she said to him :
w Step into this carriage with me, and we will drive back to my father's palace.' And she gave him a ring and half of her handkerchief. But on the way back the coachman and footman spoke to one another and said:
' Why should we drive this stranger back to the palace? Let us kill him, and then we can say to the king that we slew the dragon and saved the princess, and one of us shall marry her.'
So they killed the prince, and left him dead on the roadside. And the faithful beasts came round the dead body and wept, and wondered what they should do. Then suddenly the wolf had an idea, and he started off