190 THE FAIRY OF THE DAWN
whatever the goddess might choose to talk about, which was for the most part the wickedness of men, with whom she was evidently very angry. But Petru agreed with her in everything, as he had been taught was only polite.
But was anybody ever so old as she ! I do not know why Petru devoured her so with his eyes, unless it was to count the wrinkles on her face; but if so he would have had to live seven lives, and each life seven times the length of an ordinary one, before he could have reckoned them up.
But Venus was joyful in her heart when she saw Petru's eyes fixed upon her.
' Nothing was that is, and the world was not a world when I was born,' said she. ' When I grew up and the world came into being, everyone thought I was the most beautiful girl that ever was seen, though many hated me for it. But every hundred years there came a wrinkle on my face. And now I am old.' Then she went on to tell Petru that she was the daughter of an emperor, and their nearest neighbour was the Fairy of the Dawn,, with whom she had a violent quarrel, and with that she broke out into loud abuse of her.
Petru did not know what to do. He listened in silence for the most part, but now and then he would say, ' Yes, yes, you must have been badly treated,' just for politeness' sake; what more could he do ?
' I will give you a task to perform, for you are brave, and will carry it through,' continued Venus, when she had talked a long time, and both of them were getting sleepy. ' Close to the Fairy's house is a well, and whoever drinks from it will blossom again like a rose. Bring me a flagon of it, and I will do anything to prove my gratitude. It is not easy ! no one knows that better than I do ! The kingdom is guarded on every side by wild beasts and horrible dragons ; but I will tell you more about that, and I also have something to give you.'