26G THE STORY OF HASSEBU
softest cushions. And he went in and lay down on it, and fell fast asleep, for he had wandered far.
By-and-by there was a sound of people coming through the courtyard, and the measured tramp of soldiers. This was the King of the Snakes coming in state to his palace.
They entered the hall, but all stopped in surprise at finding a man lying on the king's own bed. The soldiers wished to kill him at once, but the king said, ' Leave him alone, put me on a chair,' and the soldiers who were carrying him knelt on the floor, and he slid from their shoulders on to a chair. When he was comfortably seated, he turned to his soldiers, and bade them wake the stranger gently. And they woke him, and he sat up and saw many snakes all round him, and one of them very beautiful, decked in royal robes.
' Who are you ? ' asked Hassebu.
' I am the King of the Snakes,' was the reply, ' and this is my palace. And will you tell me who you are, and where you come from? '
' My name is Hassebu, but whence I come I know not, nor whither I go.'
' Then stay for a little with me,' said the king, and he bade his soldiers bring water from the spring and fruits from the forest, and to set them before the guest.
For some days Hassebu rested and feasted in the palace of the King of the Snakes, and then he began to long for his mother and his own country. So he said to the King of the Snakes, ' Send me home, I pray.'
But the King of the Snakes answered, ' When you go home, you will do me evil! '
' I will do you no evil,' replied Hassebu; ' send me home, I pray.'
But the king said, ' I know it. If I send you home, you will come back, and kill me. I dare not do it.' But Hassebu begged so hard that at last the king said, ' Swear that when you get home you will not go to