GIRL WHO PRETENDED TO BE A BOY 339
' Mighty Emperor, I kiss your hands ! I have but just returned from doing your bidding, and, behold, you send me on another mission, and stake my head on its fulfilment, when your court is full of valiant young men, pining to win their spurs. They say you are a just man ; then why not entrust this quest to one of them? Where am I to seek these mares that I am to bring you?'
' How do I know ? They may be anywhere in heaven or earth; but, wherever they are, you will have to find them.'
The princess bowed and went to consult Sunlight. He listened while she told her tale, and then said:
' Fetch quickly nine buffalo skins; smear them well with tar, and lay them on my back. Do not fear; you will succeed in this also; but, in the end, the emperor's desires will be his undoing.'
The buffalo skins were soon got, and the princess started off with Sunlight. The way was long and difficult, but at length they reached the place where the mares were grazing. Here the genius who had carried off Iliane was wandering about, trying to discover how to capture them, all the while believing that Iliane was safe in the palace where he had left her.
As soon as she caught sight of him, the princess went up and told him that Iliane had escaped, and that his mother, in her efforts to recapture her, had died of rage. At this news a blind fury took possession of the genius, and he rushed madly upon the princess, who awaited his onslaught with perfect calmness. As he came on, with his sabre lifted high in the air, Sunlight bounded right over his head, so that the sword fell harmless. And when in her turn the princess prepared to strike, the horse sank upon his knees, so that the blade pierced the genius's thigh.
The fight was so fierce that it seemed as if the earth would give way under them, and for twenty miles round the beasts in the forest fled to their caves for shelter.