3©4 THE WONDERFUL TRAVELLERS.
own life as well as his, and if he fails, you will both lose youi heads."
As soon as matters were arranged, the runner quickly screwed on his other leg, while his master said to him: " Do your best, friend, and help us to win."
It had been decided that whichever of the runners brought back water in a cup from a distant well first, should be declared the winner. The courier and the king's daughter each received a cup for this purpose, and then started at the same moment. But the princess had scarcely run any distance before the courier was out of sight as completely as if the wind had carried him away.
On reaching the fountain, he filled his cup full of water, and turned to go back, but when he arrived about half way, he began to feel overcome with fatigue, so he placed his cup of water on the ground, laid himself down, and was soon asleep. He had placed, however, a horse's skull which he found near under his head for a pillow. Being hard, it would not let him sleep long. In the meantime the princess, who could really run very fast, arrived at the well. Hastily filling her cup, she turned back and very soon came to the place where her rival lay sleeping. She was overjoyed, and said : " Ah, my enemy is in my power now," so she emptied the water from his cup, and continued her rapid footsteps homeward with greater speed than ever.
Now all would have been lost but that the sportsman who stood on the castle wall saw with his keen eyes what had occurred.
" The princess must not be allowed to win," he said, and raising his gun, he took such a correct aim, that the skull was shot away from under the courier's head without injuring him in the least. The noise awoke him, and starting up he saw that his cup was empty, and the princess far ahead of him. But he did not lose courage; running back to the spring, he refilled his cup with water, and then with a few rapid strides overtook the princess, passed her, and arrived home ten minutes before her.
The king and the princess were dreadfully mortified when they found that she was beaten, for he could not endure to think of his daughter marrying a discharged common soldier. So they held a council together as to the best means of freeing themselves from him and his companions. At last the king said : " Don't be uneasy, my child ; I have thought of a plan, they shall not come near to you again."