GIRL WHO PRETENDED TO BE A BOY 335
' May a long life be yours, O Sovereign all mighty!' said she. ' I have come to tell you that I can do as you command if you will give me twenty ships, and load them with the most precious wares in your kingdom.'
' You shall have all that I possess if you will bring me the golden-haired Iliane,' said the emperor.
The ships were soon ready, and the princess entered the largest and finest, with Sunlight at her side. Then the sails were spread and the voyage began.
For seven weeks the wind blew them straight towards the west, and early one morning they caught sight of the island swamps of the sea.
They cast anchor in a little bay, and the princess made haste to disembark with Sunlight, but, before leaving the ship, she tied to her belt a pair of tiny gold slippers, adorned with precious stones. Then mounting Sunlight, she rode about till she came to several palaces, built on hinges, so that they could always turn towards the sun.
The most splendid of these was guarded by three slaves, whose greedy eyes were caught by the glistening gold of the slippers. They hastened up to the owner of these treasures, and inquired who he was. ' A merchant,' replied the princess, ' who had somehow missed his road, and lost himself among the island swamps of the sea.'
Not knowing if it was proper to receive him or not, the slaves returned to their mistress and told her all they had seen, but not before she had caught sight of the merchant from the roof of her palace. Luckily her gaoler was away, always trying to catch the stud of mares, so for the moment she was free and alone.
The slaves told their tale so well that their mistress insisted on going down to the shore and seeing the beautiful slippers for herself. They were even lovelier than she expected, and when the merchant besought her