348 THE KNIGHTS OF THE FISH
sharply; ' and this is my castle, to which I bid you welcome. You shall live here with me and be my husband.' But at these words the knight let his spear fall, so surprised was he.
' I marry you ? why you must be a hundred at least!' cried he. ' You are mad! All I desire is to inspect the castle and then go.' As he spoke he heard the voices give a mocking laugh ; but the old woman took no notice, and only bade the knight follow her.
Old though she was, it seemed impossible to tire her. There was no room, however small, she did not lead him into, and each room was full of curious things he had never seen before.
At length they came to a stone staircase, which was so dark that you could not see your hand if you held it up before your face.
' I have kept my most precious treasure till the last,' said the old woman ; ' but let me go first, for the stairs are steep, and you might easily break your leg.' So on she went, now and then calling back to the young man in the darkness. But he did not know that she had slipped aside into a recess, till suddenly he put his foot on a trap door which gave way under him, and he fell down, down, as many good knights had done before him, and his voice joined the echoes of theirs.
' So you would not marry me !' chuckled the old witch. 'Ha! ha! Ha! ha!'
Meanwhile his brother had wandered far and wide, and at last he wandered back to the same great city where the other young knight had met with so many adventures. He noticed, with amazement, that as he walked through the streets the guards drew themselves up in line, and saluted him, and the drummers played the royal march ; but he was still more bewildered when several servants in livery ran up to him and told him that the princess was sure something terrible had befallen