78 THE KING OF THE WATERFALLS
' Choose your prize,' said the king, when the game was ended, ' but do not be too hard on me, or ask what I cannot give.'
' The prize I choose,' answered the Gruagach, ' is that the crop-headed creature should take thy head and thy neck, if thou dost not get for me the Sword of Light that hangs in the house of the king of the oak windows.'
' I will get it,' replied the young man bravely; but as soon as he was out of sight of the Gruagach he pretended no more, and his face grew dark and his steps lagging.
' You have brought nothing with you to-night,' said the queen, who was standing on the steps awaiting him. She was so beautiful that the king was fain to smile when he looked at her, but then he remembered what had happened, and his heart grew heavy again.
' What is it ? What is the matter ? Tell me thy sorrow that I may bear it with thee, or, it may be, help thee ! ' Then the king told her everything that had befallen him, and she stroked his hair the while.
' That is nothing to grieve about,' she said when the tale was finished. ' You have the best wife in Erin, and the best horse in Erin. Only do as I bid you, and all will go well.' And the king suffered himself to be comforted.
He was still sleeping when the queen rose and dressed herself, to make everything ready for her husband's journey ; and the first place she went to was the stable, where she fed and watered the shaggy brown horse and put the saddle on it. Most people thought this saddle was of wood, and did not see the little sparkles of gold and silver that were hidden in it. She strapped it lightly on the horse's back, and then led it down before the house, where the king waited.
' Good luck to you, and victories in all your battles,' she said, as she kissed him before he mounted. ' I need