' Suppose a strange people were to fall upon you, and take everything you have ! '
' No strange people will dare; they are all horribly afraid of our princess. She it is who keeps us safe and free and rich !'
Every now and then as she spoke, she would stop and look behind her.
I asked why her people had such a hatred of strangers. She answered that the presence of a stranger denied the city.
' How is that ? ' I said.
' Because we are more ancient and noble than any other nation.—Therefore,' she added, ' we always turn strangers out before night.'
' How, then, can you take me into your house ? ' I asked.
'I will make an exception of you,' she replied.
Is there no place in the city for the taking in of strangers ?'
Such a place would be pulled down, and its owner burned. How is purity to be preserved except by keeping low people at a proper distance ? Dignity is such a delicate thing ! '
She told me that their princess had reigned for thousands of years; that she had power over the air and the water as well as the earth—and, she believed, over the fire too ; that she could do what she pleased, and was answerable to nobody.
When at length she was willing to risk the attempt, we took our way through lanes and narrow passages, and reached her door without having met a single live creature. It was in a wider street, between two tall houses, at the top of a narrow, steep stair, up which