174 THE FAIRY OF THE DAWN
' But we have got to go further still,' said Petru, after he had taken a farewell glance at his native land.
' Yes, forwards,' answered the horse ; ' but you must tell me, my lord, at what speed you wish to go. Like the wind? Like thought? Like desire? or like a curse? '
Petru looked about him, up at the heavens and down again to the earth. A desert lay spread out before him, whose aspect made his hair stand on end.
' We will ride at different speeds,' said he, ' not so fast as to grow tired nor so slow as to waste time.'
And so they rode, one day like the wind, the next like thought, the third and fourth like desire and like a curse, till they reached the borders of the desert.
' Now walk, so that I may look about, and see what I have never seen before,' said Petru, rubbing his eyes like one who wakes from sleep, or like him who beholds something so strange that it seems as if . . . Before Petru lay a wood made of copper, with copper trees and copper leaves, with bushes- and flowers of copper also.
Petru stood and stared as a man does when he sees something that he has never seen, and of which he has never heard.
Then he rode right into the wood. On each side of the way the rows of flowers began to praise Petru, and to try and persuade him to pick some of them and make himself a wreath.
' Take me, for I am lovely, and can give strength to whoever plucks me,' said one.
'No, take me, for whoever wears me in his hat will be loved by the most beautiful woman in the world,' pleaded the second: and then one after another bestirred itself, each more charming than the last, all promising, in soft sweet voices, wonderful things to Petru, if only he would pick them.
Petru was not deaf to their persuasion, and was just stooping to pick one when the horse sprang to one side.