206 THE ONE-HANDED GIRL
in one of the rooms, she flung herself down on a pile of cushions and went to sleep with her baby beside her.
Here she stayed quietly, and every day the baby grew taller and stronger, and very soon he could run about and even talk. Of course the neighbours had a great deal to say about the house which had been built so quickly—so very quickly—on the outskirts of the town, and invented all kinds of stories about the rich lady who lived in it. And by and bye, when the king returned with his son from the wars, some of these tales reached his ears.
' It is really very odd about that house under the palms,' he said to the queen; ' I must find out something of the lady whom no one ever sees. I daresay it is not a lady at all, but a gang of conspirators who want to get possession of my throne. To-morrow I shall take my son and my chief ministers and insist on getting inside.'
Soon after sunrise next day the prince's wife was standing on a Uttle hill behind the house, when she saw a cloud of dust coming through the town. A moment afterwards she heard faintly the roll of the drums that announced the king's presence, and saw a crowd of people approaching the grove of palms. Her heart beat fast. Could her husband be among them ? In any case they must not discover her there; so just bidding the ring prepare some food for them, she ran inside, and bound a veil of golden gauze round her head and face. Then, taking the child's hand, she went to the door and waited.
In a few minutes the whole procession came up, and she stepped forward and begged them to come in and rest.
' Willingly,' answered the king; ' go first, and we will follow you.'
They followed her into a long dark room, in which