THE WITCH AND HER SERVANTS lf>9
length, towards evening, the mass of trees grew more transparent, and through the interlaced branches a wide plain was visible.
At the exit of the wood the lion stood still, and the Prince took leave of him, having first thanked him warmly for his kind protection. It had become quite dark, and Iwanich was forced to wait for daylight before continuing his journey.
He made himself a bed of grass and leaves, lit a fire of dry branches, and slept soundly till the next morning.
Then he got up and walked towards a beautiful white palace which he saw gleaming in the distance. In about an hour he reached the building, and opening the door he walked in.
After wandering through many marble halls, he came to a huge staircase made of porphyry, leading down to a lovely garden.
The Prince burst into a shout of joy when he suddenly perceived Militza in the centre of a group of girls who were weaving wreaths of flowers with which to deck their mistress.
As soon as Militza saw the Prince she ran up to him and embraced him tenderly; and after he had told her all his adventures, they went into the palace, where a sumptuous meal awaited them. Then the Princess called her court together, and introduced Iwanich to them as her future husband.
Preparations were at once made for the wedding, which was held soon after witli great pomp and magnificence.
Three months of great happiness followed, when Militza received one day an invitation to visit her mother's sister.
Although the Princess was very unhappy at leaving her husband, she did not like to refuse the invitation, and, promising to return in seven days at the latest, she took a tender farewell of the Prince, and said : 'Before I go I will hand you overall the keys of the castle. Go everywhere and do anything you like ; only one thing I beg and beseech you, do not open the little iron door in the north tower, which is closed with seven locks and seven bolts ; for if you do, we shall both suffer for it.'
Iwanich promised what she asked, and Militza departed, repeating her promise to return in seven days.
AYlicn the Prince found himself alone lie began to be tormented by pangs of curiosity as to what the room in tlio tower contained. For two days he resisted the temptation to go and look, but on the third he could stand it no longer, and taking a torch in his hand he hurried to the tower, and unfastened one lock after the other of the little iron door until it bur t "pen.