304 THE BOYS WITH THE GOLDEN STARS
if he had grown a hundred times heavier than usual, yet he felt a kind of calm that was quite new to him. But the empress felt as if she was lying on thorns and nettles, and could not close her eyes.
When the emperor was fast asleep, the bed began to crack loudly, and to the empress each crack had a meaning. She felt as if she were listening to a language which no one but herself could understand.
'Is it too heavy for you, little brother?' asked one of the beds.
' Oh, no, it is not heavy at all,' answered the bed in which the emperor was sleeping. ' I feel nothing but joy now that my beloved father rests over me.'
' It is very heavy for me! ' said the other bed, ' for on me lies an evil soul.'
And so they talked on till the morning, the empress listening all the while.
By daybreak the empress had determined how to get rid of the beds. She would have two others made exactly like them, and when the emperor had gone hunting they should be placed in his room. This was done, and the aspen beds were burnt in a large fire, till only a little heap of ashes was left.
Yet while they were burning the empress seemed to hear the same words, which she alone could understand.
Then she stooped and gathered up the ashes, and scattered them to the four winds, so that they might blow over fresh lands and fresh seas, and nothing remain of them.
But she had not seen that where the fire burnt brightest two sparks flew up, and, after floating in the air for a few moments, fell down into the great river that flows through the heart of the country. Here the sparks had turned into two little fishes with golden scales, and one was so exactly like the other that everyone could tell at the first glance that they must be twins. Early one