332 GIRL WHO PRETENDED TO BE A BOY
that my strength is not equal to the task that lies before me. Give me leave, therefore, to return home, and do you continue your journey under the care of my brother. Put your faith in him as you put it in me, and you will never repent. Wisdom has come early to Sunlight.'
' Yes, my old comrade, you have served me well; and it is only through your help that up to now I have been victorious. So grieved though I am to say farewell, I will obey you yet once more, and will listen to your brother as I would to yourself. Only, I must have a proof that he loves me as well as you do.'
' How should I not love you ?' answered Sunlight; ' how should I not be proud to serve a warrior such as you? Trust me, mistress, and you shall never regret the absence of my brother. I know there will be difficulties in our path, but we will face them together.'
Then, with tears in her eyes, the princess took leave of her old horse, who galloped back to her father.
She had ridden only a few miles further, when she saw a golden curl lying on the road before her. Checking her horse, she asked whether it would be better to take it or let it lie.
' If you take it,' said Sunlight, ' you will repent, and if you don't, you will repent too : so take it.' On this the girl dismounted, and picking up the curl, wound it round her neck for safety.
They passed by hills, they passed by mountains, they passed through valleys, leaving behind them thick forests, and fields covered with flowers; and at length they reached the court of the over-lord.
He was sitting on his throne, surrounded by the sons of the other emperors, who served him as pages. These youths came forward to greet their new companion, and wondered why they felt so attracted towards him.
However, there was no time for talking and concealing her fright. The princess was led straight up to the