THE MAGIC RING
smooth, and heard the mild but mocking tones in which he answered the old woman, saying:
' If your son is as wonderfully clever as you say, and if there is nothing in the world that he cannot do, let him build a magnificent castle, just opposite my palace windows, in four and twenty hours. The palace must be joined together by a bridge of pure crystal. On each side of the bridge there must be growing trees, having golden and silver apples, and with birds of Paradise among the branches. At the right of the bridge there must be a church, with five golden cupolas; in this church your son shall be wedded to my daughter, and we will keep the wedding festivities in the new castle. But if he fails to execute this my royal command, then, as a just but mild monarch, I shall give orders that you and he are taken, and first dipped in tar and then in feathers, and you shall be executed in the market-place for the entertainment of my courtiers.'
And a smile played round" the King's lips as he finished speaking, and his courtiers and counsellors shook with laughter when they thought of the old woman's folly, and praised the King's wise device, and said to each other, ' What a joke it will be when we see the pair of them tarred and feathered! The son is just as able to grow a beard on the palm of his hand as to execute such a task in twenty-four hours.'
Now the poor old woman was mortally afraid and, in a trembling voice she asked:
' Is that really your royal will, 0 King ? Must I take this order to my poor son ? '
'Yes, old dame ; such is my command. If your son carries out my order, he shall be rewarded with my daughter ; but if he fails, away to the tar-barrel and the stake with you both!'
On her way home the poor old woman shed bitter tears, and when she saw Martin she told him what the King had said, and sobbed out:
' Didn't I tell you, my son, that you should marry someone of your own rank ? It would have been better for us this day if you had. As I told you, my going to Court has been as much as our lives are worth, and now we will both be tarred and feathered, and burnt in the public market-place. It is terrible !' and she moaned and cried,
' Never fear, little mother,' answered Martin ; ' trust me, and you will see all will be well. You may go to sleep with a quiet mind.'
And, stepping to the front of the hut, Martin threw his ring