THE LUTE PLAYER 75
The queen walked about amongst the prisoners, and at length she picked out her husband and took him with her on her journey. They were long on their way, but he never found out who she was, and she led him nearer and nearer to his own country.
When they reached the frontier the prisoner said :
' Let me go now, kind lad; I am no common prisoner, but the king of this country. Let me go free and ask what you will as your reward.'
' Do not speak of reward,' answered the lute player. ' Go in peace.'
' Then come with me, dear boy, and be my guest.'
' When the proper time comes I shall be at your palace,' was the reply, and so they parted.
The queen took a short way home, got there before the king and changed her dress.
An hour later all the people in the palace were running to and fro and crying out: ' Our king has come back! Our king has returned to us.'
The king greeted everyone very kindly, but he would not so much as look at the queen.
Then he called all his council and ministers together and said to them :
' See what sort of a wife I have. Here she is falling; on my neck, but when I was pining in prison and sent her word of it she did nothing to help me.'
And his council answered with one voice, ' Sire, when news was brought from you the queen disappeared and no one knew where she went. She only returned to-day.'
Then the king was very angry and cried, ' Judge my faithless wife! Never would you have seen your king again, if a young lute player had not delivered him. I shall remember him with love and gratitude as long as I live.'
Whilst the king was sitting with his council, the queen found time to disguise herself. She took her lute,