76 THE LUTE PLAYER
and slipping into the court in front of the palace she sang, clear and sweet:
' I sing the captive's longing Within his prison wall, Of hearts that sigh when none are nigh To answer to their call.
' My song begs for your pity, And gifts from out your store, And as I play my gentle lay I linger near your door.
'And if you hear my singing Within your palace, sire, Oh! give, I pray, this happy day, To me my heart's desire.'
As soon as the king heard this song he ran out to meet the lute player, took him by the hand and led him into the palace.
'Here,'he cried, 'is the boy who released me from my prison. And now, my true friend, I will indeed give you your heart's desire.'
' I am sure you will not be less generous than the heathen king was, sire. I ask of you what I asked and obtained from him. But this time I don't mean to give up what I get. I want you — yourself !'
And as she spoke she threw off her long cloak and everyone saw it was the queen.
Who can tell how happy the king was? In the joy of his heart he gave a great feast to the whole world, and the whole world came and rejoiced with him for a whole week.
I was there too, and ate and drank many good things. I sha'n't forget that feast as long as I live.
[From the Russian.]