GIRL WHO PRETENDED TO BE A BOY 341
At this, the heart of the girl swelled within her. The hardest tasks were always given to her, and long before the two years were up, she would be worn out and useless. But while these thoughts passed through her mind, a fearful rain fell, such as no man remembered before, and rose till the mares were standing up to their knees in water. Then as suddenly it stopped, and, behold! the water was ice, which held the animals firmly in its grasp. And the princess's heart grew light again, and she sat down gaily to milk them, as if she had done it every morning of her life.
The love of the emperor for Iliane waxed greater day by day, but she paid no heed to him, and always had an excuse ready to put off their marriage. At length, when she had come to the end of everything she could think of, she said to him one day : ' Grant me, Sire, just one request more, and then I will really marry you ; for you have waited patiently this long time.'
' My beautiful dove,' replied the emperor, ' both I and all I possess are yours, so ask your will, and you shall have it.'
' Get me, then,' she said, ' a flask of the holy water that is kept in a little church beyond the river Jordan, and I will be your wife.'
Then the emperor ordered Fet-Fruners to ride without delay to the river Jordan, and to bring back, at whatever cost, the holy water for Iliane.
; This, my mistress,' said Sunlight, when she was saddling him, ' is the last and most difficult of your tasks. But fear nothing, for the hour of the emperor has struck.'
So they started; and the horse, who was not a wizard for nothing, told the princess exactly where she was to look for the holy water.
• It stands,' he said, ' on the altar of a little church, and is guarded by a troop of nuns. They never sleep,