68 NINE PEA-HENS AND GOLDEN APPLES
' The old witch's mare has run away from me,' replied the prince, ' and I don't know where to find her.'
'Oh, she is with us,' answered the wolf, ' and she has changed herself into a she-wolf, and the foal into a cub; but strike the earth here with the halter, and cry, " Come to me, O mare of the mountain witch."'
The prince did as he was bid, and as the hair touched his fingers the wolf changed back into a mare, with the foal beside her. And when he had mounted and ridden her home the old woman was on the steps to receive them, and she set some food before the prince, but led the mare back to her stable.
' You should have gone among the wolves,' said she, striking her with a stick.
' So I did,' replied the mare, ' but they are no friends of mine and betrayed me.'
The old woman made no answer, and left the stable, but the prince was at the door waiting for her.
'I have served you well,' said he, 'and now for my reward.'
' What I promised that will I perform,' answered she. 'Choose one of these twelve horses; you can have which you like.'
'Give me, instead, that half-starved creature in the corner,' asked the prince. 'I prefer him to all those beautiful animals.'
'You can't really mean what you say?' replied the woman.
' Yes, I do,' said the prince, and the old woman was forced to let him have his way. So he took leave of her, and put the halter round his horse's neck and led him into the forest, where he rubbed him down till his skin was shining like gold. Then he mounted, and they flew straight through the air to the dragon's palace. The empress had been looking for him night and day, and stole out to meet him, and he swung her on to his saddle, and the horse flew off again.