170 THE FAIRY OF THE DAWN
back,' she cried. ' You did not set about the matter properly.'
' How ought I to have set about it?' asked Petru, half angrily, half sadly.
' Look here, my boy,' replied old Birscha. ' You can never reach the spring of the Fairy of the Dawn unless you ride the horse which your father, the emperor, rode in his youth. Go and ask where it is to be found, and then mount it and be off with you.'
Petru thanked her heartily for her advice, and went at once to make inquiries about the horse.
'By the light of my eyes!' exclaimed the emperor when Petru had put his question. ' Who has told you anything about that? It must have been that old witch of a Birscha ? Have you lost your wits ? Fifty years have passed since I was young, and who knows where the bones of my horse may be rotting, or whether a scrap of his reins still lie in his stall? I have forgotten all about him long ago.'
Petru turned away in anger, and went back to his old nurse.
' Do not be cast clown,' she said with a smile ; ' if that is how the affair stands all will go well. Go and fetch the scrap of the reins; I shall soon know what must be done.'
The place was full of saddles, bridles, and bits of leather. Petru picked out the oldest, and blackest, and most decayed pair of reins, and brought them to the old woman, who murmured something over them and sprinkled them with incense, and held them out to the young man.
' Take the reins,' said she, ' and strike them violently against the pillars of the house.'
Petru did what he was told, and scarcely had the reins touched the pillars when something happened — how I have no idea — that made Petru stare with surprise. A horse stood before him — a horse whose equal in beauty