194 THE FLOWER QUEEN'S DAUGHTER
castle all made of gold with diamond windows. He opened the big gate leading into the courtyard, and was just going to walk in, when seven dragons rushed on him and asked him what he wanted ?
The Prince replied, ' I have heard so much of the beauty and kindness of the Dragon's Mother, and would like to enter her service.'
This flattering speech pleased the dragons, and the eldest of them said, ( Well, you may come with me, and I will take you to the Mother Dragon.'
They entered the castle and walked through twelve splendid halls, all made of gold and diamonds. In the twelfth room they found the Mother Dragon seated on a diamond throne. She was the ugliest woman under the sun, and, added to it all, she had three heads. Her appearance was a great shock to the Prince, and so was her voice, which was like the croaking of many ravens. She asked him, ' Why have you come here ? '
The Prince answered at once, ' I have heard so much of your beauty and kindness, that I would very much like to enter your service.'
' Very well,' said the Mother Dragon ; ' but if you wish to enter my service, you must first lead my mare out to the meadow and look after her for three days ; but if you don't bring her home safely every evening, we will eat you up.'
The Prince undertook the task and led the mare out to the meadow. But no sooner had they reached the grass than she vanished. The Prince sought for her in vain, and at last in despair sat down on a big stone and contemplated his sad fate. As he sat thus lost in thought, he noticed an eagle flying over his head. Then he suddenly bethought him of his little bell, and taking it out of his pocket he rang it once. In a moment he heard a rustling sound in the air beside him, and the King of the Eagles sank at his feet.
' I know what you want of me,' the bird said. ' You are looking for the Mother Dragon's mare who is galloping about among the clouds. I will summon all the eagles of the air together, and order them to catch the mare and bring her to you.' And with these words the King of the Eagles flew away. Towards evening the Prince heard a mighty rushing sound in the air, and when he looked up he saw thousands of eagles driving the mare before them. They sank at his feet on to the ground and gave the mare over to him. Then the Prince rode home to the old Mother Dragon, who was full of wonder when she saw him, and said, ' You have succeeded